Roy Wood Jr., stepping down from California position.

Roy Wood Jr., stepping down from California position.


Wood Resigns CHRB Post

Roy C. Wood Jr. will retire from his position as executive director of the California Horse Racing Board effective at the end of 2004. Wood joined the CHRB as its executive secretary in 1994 after a stint as director of racing for the Texas Racing Commission. Roy Minami, assistant executive director, will oversee the daily operation of the CHRB until a permanent replacement is hired.

In a written release, Wood said he is moving to Louisiana because of his wife's respiratory problems due to the air quality in the Sacramento area. Before taking the Texas job, Wood was a Louisiana state steward and assistant executive director of the Louisiana State Racing Commission. Wood, 60, plans to be involved with Foxwood Plantation, a Thoroughbred breeding operation in Louisiana.

"The board appreciates the many years of devoted service Roy has given to the racing industry," said CHRB chairman John Harris.

Wood has been a lightning rod for controversy through much of his term.
Although he has enjoyed the support of CHRB commissioners through the various incarnations of the board through his tenure, Wood has come under criticism from staffers for his micromanagement style, and from horsemen who felt the sting of various drug-positive prosecutions.

Most of the news coming out of the CHRB through Wood's tenure had to do with such positives. He earned the enmity of high-profile trainers such as Richard Mandella and Bobby Frankel in the mid-1990s for well publicized drug positives called against them. Both conditioners were eventually absolved of charges--Frankel for a morphine positive and Mandella for scopolamine, in cases that were widely thought to be examples of contamination. Trainer Bob Baffert has spent years fighting a morphine positive in a case that is still ongoing.

A series of high profile, unsuccessful drug prosecutions continued under Wood in the late 1990s when trainer Paco Gonzalez was charged with a clenbuterol positive in his star runner Free House. Free House was odds-on and towered over his field in the 1998 Bel Air Handicap (gr. II), after which the positive was called, and Gonzalez was adamantly backed by Free House's owners John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery, who were on record as being against using illegal drugs on their horses.

In the past few years Wood changed course. In most cases he sought to fine trainers who were called on drug positives rather than going through the administrative law process. The CHRB has also shied away from making drug positives public, as trainers quietly paid fines to have their positives go away.