SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Kirk E. Breed, the executive director of the California Horse Racing Board and a former lobbyist in Sacramento specializing in horse racing issues, has died. He was 73.
Board spokesman Mike Marten said Breed died of cancer Wednesday in a Sacramento hospital.
Breed had continued overseeing CHRB operations throughout his long illness. He had surgery for his cancer last September.
He was appointed to the CHRB post and its $116,508 annual salary in February 2008. As executive director of the agency that regulates horse racing in the state, Breed oversaw enforcement and licensing and directed and implemented the CHRB's equine drug-testing program, among other duties.
"I believe in providing good leadership and getting people to work with me, not for me," Breed said at the time of his appointment. "All things considered, I believe this job is a good fit for me."
CHRB Chairman David Israel agreed in a statement on Wednesday, calling Breed "a beloved colleague and friend."
"No one was more dedicated to assuring the welfare of the horse, the well-being of the participants and the integrity of the sport than Kirk," Israel said.
Breed's experience with horses began in the late 1950s when he helped his father train and race quarter horses while Breed attended Oklahoma State on a football scholarship. After graduating with a degree in zoology, he spent five years in Chile with the Peace Corps.
He worked for the State Department in Washington, D.C., and served two years as a Peace Corps director in Colombia.
Breed spent six years working for the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. He was a founding member of the Oklahoma Horse Council and wrote legislation that became law as the Oklahoma Trails Act.
In 1979, Breed was appointed general manager of the California Exposition and State Fair, turning it into one of the premier agricultural fairs in the country during his six-year tenure. He directed the opening of one of the first satellite wagering facilities in Northern California in 1985.
"We wanted to be the first satellite facility to open, and with very little money we were able to open the doors of the grandstand in one of the coldest, wettest winters in memory," he said. "We heated the place with orchard butane heaters and the people loved it. Overnight, we had racing 220 days a year in Sacramento."
In 1988, Breed took a job in state government analyzing all legislation pertaining to horse racing and gaming. He began his own lobbying and consulting firm in 1990.
Breed is survived by wife Mary Ann, their young daughter Cloe, and his three adult children.