Charlie Camac, Racing Official, Dies at 78

After a 50-year career in the sport before retiring, he dies at his home in Florida.

Charles "Charlie" Camac, racing official in Florida and New Jersey for five decades died May 26 at his home in Williston, Fl. He was 78.

The son of leading trainer Charles Camac, Charlie grew up in racing at Mid-Atlantic tracks such as Delaware Park and Garden State Park. He learned about racehorses working for his father, and uncle, Joe Camac, also a trainer. But though he loved horses and loved the game, Camac chose not to set up his own shedrow. Where he shone the brightest was on the starting gate.

His first work on the gate was as a teenager, filling in for an injured assistant at Atlantic City Race Course. The job came naturally to Camac and by 30 he was made starter at Hialeah Park, one of the youngest in the country.

After giving up work at Garden State to provide stability to his children, he remained in Florida year round. He began working as a steward at Calder Race Course in the 1990s, in what was supposed to be a temporary position. The position turned permanent even as he was still schooling horses in the mornings and working as starter at Hialeah and Gulfstream Park. Eventually, he would work as a steward at Hialeah and Gulfstream as well.

Working hands-on with so many great racehorses during his time, it might have been difficult to choose a favorite. But Camac remembered most fondly a filly named Cicada, bred by Meadow Stud, who ran in the 1960s.

Son Christopher Camac, assistant racing secretary for NYRA, recalls "how fair he was, how honest, how he treated people," and his integrity. These traits did not go unnoticed by the racing industry, where he earned respect from his peers. A single father, he was dedicated to his job, his family, and his chargesalways giving his utmost at work, never missing a Little League game, and advocating for the best interest of the horse.

Camac was preceded in death last year by his sons Charles Andrew Camac, stakes coordinator for Calder, and Curt Randall Camac, head of the psychology department at Roanoke College in Salem, Va.

He is survived by his wife, Lisa Rowe Camac; son Christopher and his wife Toni Lynn; daughter-in-law Mary; sister Eileen; and five grandchildren.

In December 2007 The Blood-Horse's Claire Novak had the opportunity to sit down with Charlie Camac on the eve of his retirement from the sport. Read her interview with him here.