Updated on 04/22/2015 4:19PM

King, longtime NYRA track superintendent, dies


Joe King, the track superintendent at the New York Racing Association for 25 years and the man who helped develop Aqueduct’s inner track, died Tuesday. He was 80.

King, a native of Queens, N.Y., and an Army veteran, worked for the company that rebuilt Aqueduct in the 1950s. He worked at NYRA for 35 years but was promoted to track superintendent in 1970. King was renowned for his work at NYRA before he left in 1994 to open his own consulting firm. King spoke on many panels about track maintenance and safety.

In the mid 1970s, when NYRA went to year-round racing, King came up with the idea of the inner track, a limestone-based surface that could stand up to winter weather. In a 2010 post on the Brooklyn Backstretch website, King noted that the main track was clay and soil-based and wouldn’t hold up well in winter weather.

“Limestone doesn’t react as violently as soil does to freeze/thaw cycles,” King told Brooklyn Backstretch author Teresa Genaro. “When a frozen track thaws, you get a ‘freeze-dried’ effect. Moisture crystallizes in the cushion, and there’s nothing you can do about it. As the clay thaws, the surface is very unstable, and the horses sink into it. As long as it stayed cold, we were fine, but if we got a January thaw, we were in trouble. It’s like trying to pull a car onto thawing ground – you just sink in.”

In addition to the track work he did at NYRA, King designed or rebuilt racing surfaces at Arlington, Birmingham, Gulfstream Park, Laurel, Pimlico, Prairie Meadows, and Turfway Park. He also consulted on the construction of Remington Park's Equitrack, the first synthetic track in the U.S., and designed a seven-furlong dirt track at Chantilly in France.

A wake for King will be held at Fairchild Sons Funeral Chapel, 1570 Northern Blvd., Manhasset, N.Y. 11030, on Thursday from 7-9 p.m. and Friday from 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. A funeral mass will be held at St. Peter’s Church, 1327 Port Washington Blvd., Port Washington, N.Y. 11050, on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

King was predeceased by his wife, Joan. He is survived by a son, Joseph; daughters, Sarah Anne and Barbara; and five grandchildren.