Ralph Scurfield

Ralph Scurfield

CHRB Photo

Former CHRB Chairman Ralph Scurfield Dies

Businessman served seven years as chairman of the California Horse Racing Board.

Ralph Scurfield, longtime chairman of the California Horse Racing Board during the 1990s, died Oct. 15 in a Sacramento hospital at the age of 85.

He devoted 40 years of his life to public service, including terms with the Sacramento Planning Commission, the Sacramento City Council, and the California State Fair and Exposition Board.

A businessman in commercial property management and investment, he was active in the redevelopment of Old Sacramento and the creation of the California State Railroad Museum as a partner in the firm Potter, Taylor & Scurfield.

He was greatly respected within the horse racing community during his years of service on the CHRB. He devoted countless hours of his personal time to the business of the CHRB and the betterment of the California horse racing industry, especially in matters concerning the health and safety of racehorses and workers in the industry. 

Scurfield was elected chairman of the CHRB for seven consecutive years beginning in 1992, making him the second-longest tenured chairman in CHRB history. The Association of Racing Commissioners International also named him chairman in 1998. He later helped organize the Sacramento Harness Association.

He was initially appointed to the CHRB by Gov. George Deukmejian in 1991. While on the commission, he led efforts to shore up horse racing amid competition from other forms of gaming by reducing state licensing fees and supporting horse owner associations.

"He wasn't a big horse owner, but he was a good business guy who enjoyed sports," his son David told the Sacramento Bee. "He liked to combine his business skills with his love of sports, and this was a good opportunity."

He is survived by his wife, Barbara; three sons, Donald, David, and Steven; two stepsons, Ken and Chris, and 14 grandchildren. 

A celebration of his life will be held Tuesday, Oct. 22, beginning at 1 p.m. PT at the Sutter Lawn Tennis Club in Sacramento.