12/12/2016 12:06PM

Alexander takes his turn on the TOC hot seat

Email

At 74, Nick Alexander took a new job last week. Alexander was elected chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California in a unanimous vote of the board of directors.

Alexander, a retired auto dealer and active Thoroughbred owner and breeder, replaces Mike Pegram, who served as chairman for six years and will remain a member of the board.

:: Enjoy news and analysis from DRF? Get handicapping analysis, real-time coverage, special reports, and charts. Unlock access with DRF Plus.

On Sunday at Santa Anita, Alexander said he gained the position largely by default.

“No one was enthusiastic about taking the job,” Alexander said with a smile.

Alexander assumes a high-profile position that will cast him at the fore of racing’s business-related issues, working with track executives, the California Horse Racing Board, and even the state legislature.

“It should be interesting,” he said.

Alexander, who lives in Santa Ynez, Calif., about two hours north of Los Angeles, frequently attends races at Del Mar, Los Alamitos, and Santa Anita to watch his horses. He became secretary-treasurer of the TOC when he joined the board in 2013 and said the last three years have been a crash course in the sport’s inner workings.

“The politics, legislation – it’s very complex,” he said.

Alexander inherits a list of issues such as the future of some of the state’s racetracks, purse levels and stabling in Northern California, and possibly trying to get legislation passed that would legalize Internet poker, with some of the revenue going to purses. There are ongoing discussions with the racing board about requiring account-wagering companies to contribute more to purses.

“The issues are so complicated,” he said. “You work your ass off, and at the end of the day, you keep the status quo and you feel like you didn’t go backward.”

Alexander is hoping to secure a long-term schedule for the Southern California circuit, specifically addressing concerns that Los Alamitos could be developed in future years. The track offers eight weeks of Thoroughbred racing a year and year-round stabling for approximately 800 Thoroughbreds.

“We still need to look at more long-term security for Los Alamitos,” he said. “Northern California has so many problems. The purses are [poor] up there.”

On the legislative front, there is hope for passage of a bill that would allow Internet poker in the state. Currently, horse racing is the only form of legal Internet wagering allowed in California. If Internet poker is allowed, racing would receive a subsidy of approximately $60 million a year to be divided between racetrack operations and purses for horsemen.

The legislation stalled last year and will be introduced in 2017 with high hopes, Alexander said.

“I think it will go through,” he said.

A few years ago, Alexander turned his Los Angeles car dealership over to his children, and he has focused on breeding and racing since then.

“My son is a better car dealer than I was,” he said.

Alexander owns the multiple stakes winner Enola Gray, a candidate for the $300,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

In his new position, Alexander will not be paid. He will not need to walk far through the box seats or stable area to find ample free advice from a variety of people.

That exposure can make a routine trip to the races more hectic, but Alexander is willing to endure any hassle the job brings. He said his business experience can be an asset, and that he is eager to work with Greg Avioli, the TOC president who formerly served in the same capacity with the Breeders’ Cup.

“I’ve been in business for 40 years,” he said. “I’m good with numbers and budgets. Everything has to do with numbers.”

Alexander said he will lean on Pegram at times for advice.

“Mike has done so much for the TOC,” Alexander said. “Mike promised me he would not change his number.”