Churchill Downs vice president and racing secretary Jerry Botts died on New Year's Day following a brief illness.Botts, 54, died early Tuesday afternoon at Norton Hospital in Louisville, Ky. Botts had recently been diagnosed with cancer and had been treated at Norton Hospital since he was admitted there Saturday evening.Funeral services for are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. (EST) Saturday at O.D. White & Sons Funeral Home at 2727 South Third Street in Lousville.The family requests that expressions of sympathy be made in the form of contributions to Hospice of Louisville, the Kentucky chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, or the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association."Jerry Botts was a key member of the Churchill Downs team and a very significant contributor to the success of our program and all of Kentucky racing," said Alex Waldrop, president of Churchill Downs. "The quality of his work and his sense of fairness earned the respect of racing officials and horsemen across the country. Jerry devoted his life to Churchill Downs and this a very sad day for our family.""The passing of Jerry Botts is a great loss to Churchill Downs, Churchill Downs Incorporated and all of Thoroughbred racing," said Thomas H. Meeker, president and chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Inc. "When I became president of Churchill Downs in 1984 as a relative newcomer to racing, Jerry quickly became an important member of our team. As our track and company have grown over the years, Jerry has been an important element in our overall success. Jerry has always been there for Churchill Downs and he will be missed." A native of Elk Valley, Tenn. who grew up in South Louisville just a few blocks from Churchill Downs, Botts served as racing secretary at the home of the Kentucky Derby since 1985. During his tenure, Botts helped to oversee the explosive growth of the track's daily racing program, which now ranks with the finest in the industry. One of Botts' childhood friends was Don Richardson, senior vice president-racing for Churchill Downs Inc. Botts and Richardson became lifelong friends who worked together at many tracks during Botts' nearly 40-year career in racing.
Botts got his start in the racing industry as he held several part-time jobs at Churchill Downs and another Louisville track, the now-closed Miles Park. Two years of duty in the Army interrupted his career in racing, but Botts returned to the sport as a hotwalker and groom following his military duty. His first opportunity as a racetrack administrator came at Miles Park, where he was appointed stall superintendant in 1971.Similar jobs followed at other Kentucky tracks and he resumed his relationship with Churchill Downs in 1973, where he took a job as a patrol judge.Botts also held positions at Keeneland, Ellis Park and Latonia (now Turfway Park). Along with his work at Kentucky tracks, Botts served as a racing official at Hialeah Park in Hialeah, Fla., Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., and Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha, Neb. He also served on the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.Along with his day-to-day administration of the Churchill Downs racing office, one of Botts' key duties was to write the condition books for the track's live race meets. The condition book lists the races to be run during a race meet and the job is especially demanding at Churchill Downs, where Botts had to fashion a racing schedule that suited all levels of competition in a horse population that included Thoroughbreds from many of the nation's most powerful and talent-laden stables.The funeral will be 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 5 at O.D. White Funeral Home, 2727 S. Third St., Louisville, Ky. Burial will be at Louisville Memorial West. Visitation is Thursday, Jan. 3, from 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., as well as Friday, Jan. 4, 2002, from 2-9 p.m.