Harris Leaves California Horse Racing Board

Major breeder and owner was a two-time chairman during his 11-year tenure at agency.

John Harris has left the California Racing Board after a tenure of nearly 11 years in which he served as chairman on two occasions.

The move was expected. Harris announced earlier this year that he would not accept reappointment once his current term expired in July.

Harris, 68, who lives near Fresno, was appointed to the board by then-Gov. Gray Davis in November 2000. One of the leading horse owners and breeders in the state, he remained on the board through its Aug. 25 meeting.

"The term carries over for 60 days unless a new appointment made," Harris said in an email Sept. 28. "I did speak with the governor's appointment secretary yesterday and they offered to reappoint me, but I respectfully turned it down.     

"I was on the board about 10 years and much enjoyed it, but (it's) time to move on," he added. "I do wish the board well and much appreciate all the good friends I have worked with for the good of horse racing."

Harris preceded Richard Shapiro as board chairman when he was elected to a one-year term in 2004. After Shapiro's retirement in December 2008, Harris was elected to succeed him in February 2009. Keith Brackpool was elected chairman in January.

He is chairman and CEO of Harris Farms, a diversified agricultural, beef, and hospitality company located in the San Joaquin Valley near Coalinga that was originally founded in 1937 as a cotton farm by his father, Jack.

Two-time Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Tiznow  was raised at his ranch. Harris' most successful horse, with co-owner/breeder Don Valpredo, was Soviet Problem, named California Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 1993 and California Horse of the Year in 1994. She was runner-up in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).

Recent stakes winners bred  by Harris Farms include Unzip Me, Compari, and Cost of Freedom.

Harris is a member and past steward of The Jockey Club. He was elected a director of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association in 1974 and served as the organization’s legislative chairman for 20 years. He was twice elected CTBA president.

He also has served on the boards of the Breeders’ Cup, Thoroughbred Owners of California, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Board, and the Center for Equine Health/UC Davis Advisory Board. He currently serves on the boards of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, the California Cattlemen’s Association, and the Pacific Legal Foundation.