The Maryland Jockey Club announced Nov. 28 that president and chief operating officer Lou Raffetto Jr. will be leaving effective immediately to pursue other opportunities, and that Chris Dragone, a former senior vice president and general manager at the MJC, will take over his duties.
In a release, Frank Stronach, chairman of MJC owner Magna Entertainment Corp., stated: “Lou worked very hard during his tenure with MJC to manage the day-to-day operations and improve the future of Thoroughbred racing in the state of Maryland. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Said Raffetto in the release: “I wish my colleagues at MJC well going forward and hope that the company will be successful in implementing its long-term plans.”
Raffetto is leaving about a week or so after the Maryland General Assembly authorized a November 2008 vote on slot machines at Laurel Park, an MJC track. He was a part of the team that reopened Suffolk Downs in the 1990s and brought the Massachusetts Handicap, the track's marquee race, back to prominence.
While in Maryland, Raffetto worked with horsemen to keep the racing program competitive with other states whose racetracks have alternative gaming.
"Under very difficult circumstances, Lou did a great job with the Maryland racing operation," said Chip Tuttle, the chief operating officer at Suffolk Downs who worked with Raffetto at the Massachusetts track in the 1990s. "I'm sure he'll land on his feet.
Dragone joined MEC in 2002 and served as general manager of Great Lakes Downs and Portland Meadows prior to his appointment with the MJC in February 2006. Dragone left the MJC after eight months for personal and family reasons, and since that time has acted as executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc.
The son of former New York Racing Association chairman Allan Dragone, Chris Dragone has held numerous management jobs at racetracks across the country. The Dragone family owns December Hill Farm in New Jersey.
“I look forward to working toward improving the racing and entertainment experience for Maryland horsemen and our customers," Dragone said. "Working with the other key stakeholders I hope to build upon the platform established by Lou Raffetto and the De Francis family.”
“MEC remains strongly committed to the future success of Thoroughbred racing in Maryland," Stronach said. "To this end we will put the full support of MEC behind Chris and the MJC management team.”