12/18/2003 1:00AM

Head of TOC to step down


John Van de Kamp will resign his position as president and general counsel of the Thoroughbred Owners of California on July 1, the organization announced Thursday.

Van de Kamp has served as president for eight years. The TOC is recognized as the state's official representative for horsemen.

According to a statement released by the TOC, Van de Kamp informed chairman Ron Charles of his intention last summer. He is expected to pursue interests in California law.

Van de Kamp, 67, said Thursday that his contract does not end until 2005 but that he has been granted a release one year early.

Van de Kamp said he will continue in his role while the TOC seeks a replacement. Drew Couto, a TOC consultant, will take a larger role in the organization as executive director, a position he held with the organization from 1994-96.

As TOC president, Van de Kamp was visible in lobbying on behalf of the organization in legislative affairs and before the California Horse Racing Board.

He actively supported 1998 legislation to reduce license fees that tracks pay to operate. Part of the savings went to horse owners.

Van de Kamp also lobbied for telephone and Internet betting, which began in 2002. Most recently, he has supported legislation to raise the takeout on exotic wagers as a way to offset the crippling costs of workers' compensation.

In addition, Van de Kamp serves as a board member for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

"We've been on a treadmill in the industry," he said. "We had the license fee relief, but that's been eaten up by inflation. Attendance figures are still a concern. . . . We have a long way to go."

A former gubernatorial candidate in California, Van de Kamp remains a board member for Lawry's Restaurants and the Norton Simon Museum of Pasadena.