06/24/2009 11:00PM

Couto leaves TOC post in 'joint decision'

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Drew Couto said on Thursday that he has left his position as the president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

The departure coincides with Couto's contract renewal. He said his departure was a "joint decision" between him and the owners' group.

"I have truly burned out," Couto said in a phone interview. "I have hit the wall. For my own personal health, I need a break."

In a statement, the owners' group said it was not renewing Couto's contract and that the parting was amicable.

"The board of directors felt it was time for a change," Marsha Naify, chairwoman of the organization, said in a statement.

In Couto's absence, executive vice president Guy Lamothe will assume day-to-day operations, while Naify will take Couto's place representing the owners' group in industry organizations. The Thoroughbred Owners of California is the state's official representative of Thoroughbred owners.

Couto, 50, said he has no plans for another job in racing in the near future.

He has been involved with the owners' group for most of the years since the organization was founded in 1994. He was executive director from 1994-96, left to work with the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association in Kentucky, and returned as a consultant to TOC in 2001. Couto took over as president in 2002.

"This is a tough job," he said. "It's constant, it's grueling and it's subject to a lot of second-guessing and ridicule. I thought I would be able to withstand, but I decided it's time to need a break."