04/08/2008 11:00PM

Dunn out at Calder in Churchill move

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Churchill Downs Inc. announced Wednesday that Ken Dunn will be stepping down from the position of vice president of operations at the Churchill-owned Calder Race Course, a position he has held since 1999. He will serve as an adviser to the track until Aug. 1. No successor has been named.

"We are transitioning Calder into a destination with horse racing and casino-style gambling and have a need for management skills and leadership experience in both industries," said Steve Sexton, a Churchill Downs Inc. vice president, in making the announcement.

Dunn, 61, became president of Calder in 1990 and continued in that role after Churchill acquired the track nine years later.

"I want to wish my professional colleagues and extended family at Calder the very best as they begin this new chapter," Dunn said in a statement.

Kent Stirling, the longtime executive director of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said that he was surprised by the announcement.

Stirling credited Dunn for implementing several innovations that were not universally supported by horsemen, at least initially, such as the Summit of Speed card of stakes races in June for sprinters. It has become one of Calder's most popular race days.

"He was always trying things, new things that sometimes you didn't get at first," Stirling said. "You don't see that too often in this industry, especially things that turn out to be really good ideas."

Trainer Tim Ritvo is among the many Calder horsemen who have spent nearly the past two decades racing under Dunn's leadership.

"I raced with Ken here for the last 17 years and thought he did a very professional job and was a good leader," said Ritvo. "The track was productive up to the last couple of seasons, although obviously the quality of racing has been tailing off of late. Although with the economy and the industry being what it has been during that period, the drop off here was certainly not Ken's fault. Hopefully with the slot machines and this kind of shake up, racing can return to the level it had been at in years past."

additional reporting by Matt Hegarty