10/12/2017 8:02PM

Morris resigns as Stronach's VP of West Coast operations

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Joe Morris, the senior vice-president of West Coast operations for The Stronach Group, on Thursday resigned effectively immediately.

The development was not a surprise to those knowledgeable with the inner machinations of life at Santa Anita, where demands and expectations have grown exponentially since Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer for The Stronach Group, began to spend more time in California. Ritvo has been trying to improve conditions on this circuit in a manner similar to what he and his company have accomplished in Florida and Maryland.

Ritvo said a search for a replacement would first come internally, but all considerations would be made to find the best fit.

“I’ve always believed in succession within the company,” Ritvo said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. “For now, myself and others will pick up the slack. Joe was a hands-on guy, like me. He rolled up his sleeves. I’ll help as much as I can.

“We’ll evaluate the talent we have here, and if we don’t find what we want here we’ll look outside.”

Ritvo has been spending increasing amounts of time in California, and has made this circuit the focal point of his attention going forward. He has been forthright in stating repeatedly that current conditions are not acceptable.

“California not being healthy would be like NYRA not being healthy,” Ritvo said.

Ritvo said “our agenda is to have corrections in place by Dec. 26,” which is when Santa Anita opens for its main meeting that lasts six months.

Morris, based at Santa Anita in his current position, was previously a general manager at Stronach-owned Golden Gate Fields, was a past president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and had been in his current position for nearly two years. He also previously worked for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association for six years.

In a press release put out by Santa Anita, Ritvo said he’d “like to sincerely thank Joe for his hard work and dedication to The Stronach Group and Santa Anita.”

Morris, 57, owns a small breeding farm in Lexington, Ky. In the press release put out by Santa Anita, Morris said, “my wife has been running the operation back there and my family has been spread over several thousand miles for quite a few years now and we’re looking forward to spending more time together in a place we all love.”