08/06/2017 7:00PM

Brad McKinzie, longtime Los Alamitos executive, dies at 62

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Los Alamitos Race Course
Brad McKinzie, a longtime California racing executive, died Sunday after a battle with cancer.

Brad McKinzie, a racing executive who played a vital role in the expansion of Los Alamitos in recent years, died after a battle with cancer Sunday afternoon, according to his friends and Los Alamitos officials.

McKinzie was 62 and had been in declining health in recent months.

“I don’t know anyone that met him that didn’t think he was one of the best guys they ever met,” California Horse Racing Board executive director Rick Baedeker said on Sunday.

McKinzie had a 40-year career in racing, primarily around Quarter Horse racing at Los Alamitos. In recent years, McKinzie became heavily involved in Thoroughbred racing, forming an insurance company in 2005 that specialized in worker’s compensation policies for California horsemen at a time of escalating costs, and more recently as general manager of the track’s Thoroughbred meetings.

When Hollywood Park closed in 2013, McKinzie was part of the Los Alamitos team that oversaw the track’s construction of a one-mile oval for Thoroughbred racing and a plan to dedicate more than 700 stalls on the track’s backstretch for Thoroughbreds that race in Southern California.

“I don’t know if we would have a worker’s compensation solution or a stabling solution without him,” Baedeker said.

This summer, the track further expanded the barn area to accommodate 850 Thoroughbreds.

“Brad was more than an employee to me,” said Dr. Ed Allred, the owner of Los Alamitos, in a statement released by the track on Sunday.

“He was close to me. We joked around a lot and some thought he was my son.

“He was my idea man and I relied on him a great deal. I fired him once from the general manager position, but I had him back working for me on another project the next day. Our disagreements never affected our friendship.”

In the 1970s, McKinzie attended the University of Arizona where he had a classmate named Bob Baffert.

On Sunday, Baffert recalled their decades-long friendship and how McKinzie coaxed him to move his stable from Arizona to Los Alamitos in the early 1980s.

“It’s pretty sad around here,” Baffert said. “He was close to all of my family.

“He was instrumental in getting me to take my Quarter Horses to Los Alamitos in 1983. He talked me into coming out. It was so hard to get stalls.

“It’s tough to think that he’s gone.”

Born in San Francisco, McKinzie had many roles in horse racing, working as a groom in the Los Alamitos stable area as a young man for trainer Barry Woodhouse, and as a member of the track’s publicity department in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In 1984, McKinzie and Bruce Rimbo launched QuarterWeek magazine, which covered Quarter Horse racing until 1999.

In the 1980s, McKinzie was involved in the formation of the Quarter Horse Breeders’ Classic, a championship event mirrored on the Breeders’ Cup that was a predecessor to the current Challenge Championship series administered by the American Quarter Horse Association.

McKinzie stepped aside from the magazine on occasion to work as a general manager of Quarter Horse meetings at Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park in the early 1990s.

In 2014, McKinzie was part of a group that built Sammy’s, a successful restaurant and satellite wagering facility in Lake Forest, Calif., about 30 miles south of Los Alamitos.

Sunday, Baedeker recalled he met McKinzie in the late 1970s and how their friendship grew through the years. They were part of a golf foursome that would travel to famous courses as far away as Scotland and later worked together in front-office matters in racing.

“There was a time I was putting together a group of racetracks and horsemen’s organizations for a meeting,” Baedeker said. “[Racing board chairman] Chuck Winner emailed me and said, ‘Don’t forget to include Brad. He’s our voice of reason.’”

McKinzie is survived by his mother, Jean, a brother, Mark, and a sister, Lisa.

A memorial service is planned.