08/08/2013 10:28AM

Kirk Breed, CHRB executive director, dies at 73

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Kirk Breed, the executive director of the California Horse Racing Board since 2008, died on Wednesday after a two-year illness with cancer, the racing board announced.

Breed was 73 and had spent much of his adult life involved in horse racing, primarily in a management or regulatory role in California. A lifelong cowboy, Breed was most comfortable around horses, and spent vacations on weeklong trail rides through the western U.S.

“I have owned at least one horse my entire life,” he said in a statement released by the racing board in 2008.

In more than five years as the racing board’s executive director, Breed oversaw the regulatory agency’s day-to-day business. During his tenure, he was involved in such high-profile issues as the restriction of the use of steroids; the reduction of permissible levels of bute; the transformation of the Santa Anita main track from a troubled synthetic surface to a dirt surface; and the passage of controversial legislation in 2010 allowing exchange wagering but increasing the takeout on exotic bets.

“In his years as executive director, Kirk Breed provided invaluable guidance and counsel to everyone who served on the Board,” racing board chairman David Israel said in a statement. “No one was more dedicated to assuring the welfare of the horse, the well-being of the participants and the integrity of the sport than Kirk. He will be missed.”

Breed attended Oklahoma State on a football scholarship in the late 1950s. At the same time, he helped his father, who trained a stable of running Quarter Horses. After graduating with a degree in zoology, Breed volunteered for the Peace Corps, spending time in Chile and Columbia and working at the State Department in Washington, D.C.
Breed later worked with Oklahoma Department of Tourism and was a founding member of the Oklahoma Horse Council.

In 1979, California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Breed to be general manager of the California Exposition and State Fair, which conducted an annual summer race meet. The facility hosted harness racing at other times of the year.

By the 1980s, Breed was more involved in racing, developing an off-track wagering site in Sacramento and later working as a consultant to the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, analyzing legislation pertaining to racing and gambling.

Breed began a lobbying firm in 1990 and represented the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association. He worked in that capacity until accepting the racing board job in 2008.

Breed is survived by his wife, Mary Ann, and four children.