08/06/2012 2:02PM

Pete Pedersen, highly respected California racing official, dies at 92

Benoit & Associates
Pete Pedersen

Pete Pedersen, one of the most respected racing officials of all-time and a winner of the Eclipse Award of Merit, died on Sunday at age 92 from complications of a recent fall, his longtime companion, Marlene Crain, reported on Monday.

Pedersen collapsed and fell just outside his home in Arcadia, Calif., near Santa Anita two weeks ago, and since then had been in the critical care unit at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, Calif.

Known for being both fair and gracious, Pedersen was widely admired and was considered the West Coast’s equal of Kentucky’s legendary Keene Daingerfield, who received the Eclipse Award of Merit in 1985. Pedersen was so honored in 2002. They are the only two stewards to receive that prestigious award.

Pedersen also received the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award from Hollywood Park in 2008. That award is given to someone in California racing who serves the sport with dedication and integrity.

Pedersen retired in 2005 after that spring’s meeting at Hollywood Park, ending a career in racing that began as a newspaper reporter in 1939 at Longacres in his native Washington state. Though he had his first job as a racing official at Longacres in 1948, he worked as a writer and handicapper – under the heading “Pete’s Picks” – for the Los Angeles Times in the early 1950s. He occasionally wrote for various racing publications throughout his life, including Daily Racing Form.

He was a steward in California for 50 years, and officiated at every Breeders’ Cup in the state from 1984 through his retirement in 2005. As such, Pedersen was one of three stewards in the booth for the inaugural Breeders’ Cup in 1984 at Hollywood Park, which featured the disqualification from first of Fran’s Valentine in the BC Juvenile Fillies, and Gate Dancer from second to third in the BC Classic.

Pedersen flew for the Navy Air Corps during World War II.

In addition to Crain, Pedersen is survived by two sons, Michael and Craig Winfrey.

Funeral services will be private.

In lieu of flowers, Crain suggested that donations be made to a charity that benefits horses or cats, Pedersen’s two favorite animals.