04/05/2012 8:56AM

Churchill Downs track superintendent Butch Lehr to retire

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Raymond “Butch” Lehr, who has worked in the maintenance department at Churchill Downs for 45 years, the last 30 as track superintendent, announced this week that he will retire, effective at the end of the spring meet on July 1.

Lehr, 63, began his Churchill career in 1967 as a member of the backside maintenance crew. He was named assistant superintendent under Thurman Pangburn in 1976 and succeeded him in 1982.

The main track at Churchill often has been the object of praise among horsemen.

“I came to work here because I needed a job and ended up working my whole life here,” Lehr said in a Churchill release. “It’s been special to see some of the great horses that have come through here and what they’ve accomplished, and it’s a good feeling to know you had something to do with it.”

During his tenure, Lehr oversaw the construction of the Churchill turf course and the conversion of the old Louisville Downs harness track into the Trackside training center. He long has been regarded as an expert on racing surfaces and has served as a consultant and leading voice on such sweeping projects as the NTRA’s Safety and Integrity Alliance.