Ralph Vacca, the long-time general manager for the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association (WTBA), will retire at the end of the year. The WTBA has begun its search for a replacement and hopes to complete the hiring process soon so the new general manager will be able to work for several months with Vacca before he leaves.
"It's just time to move on, that's all," said Vacca, 71, of his decision to leave. "I've been here for a long time and I'd like to be able to do some other things. But if there is any way that I can continue to serve the industry, I will welcome the opportunity."
At the time of his retirement, Vacca will have worked for the WTBA for more than 40 years. During his first stint with the organization, which lasted two-and-a-half years, he was the field secretary, but he left that position in 1961 to join the advertising department of The Thoroughbred Record in Kentucky. He became the advertising director for the Daily Racing Form's Lexington bureau in 1963 and also was a bloodstock columnist for the publication. In 1964, he returned to the WTBA for good.
Vacca served as advertising manager for The Washington Horse (later renamed The Washington Thoroughbred) before becoming the magazine's editor in 1967. In 1973, when Ed Heinemann, the WTBA's first general manager, resigned to work for Washington's racing commission, Vacca became the interim general manager and later was named as Heinemann's permanent replacement.
Under Vacca's leadership, the WTBA weathered the long crisis that resulted when Longacres closed in 1992 and lasted until a new track, Emerald Downs, was opened in 1996.
"I believe the WTBA has kept in tune with the industry and that it has been very responsive to its needs," Vacca said. "It’s been a good steward and a very vibrant organization."