07/10/2012 12:33PM

Racetrack executive Mike Mackey dead at age 72

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Mike Mackey, a longtime racing official and track manager whose career took him from his native Michigan to as far south as Florida and as far west as Vancouver, Canada, died at his home in Canton, Mich., on Tuesday morning of complications of throat cancer, according to his family and a friend. Mackey was 72.

Mackey was a lifetime racetracker whose career started at Detroit Race Course in the 1970s. He later worked in managerial positions at Hialeah and Tampa Bay Downs in Florida; Thistledown racetrack in Cleveland; Great Lakes Downs and Pinnacle Race Course in Michigan; and Intertrack Partners in Illinois.

In the mid-2000s, Mackey was hired as a consultant to Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which operates Hastings Park in British Columbia. While there, he served as mentor to the track’s current general manager, Raj Mutti.

“We’re going to work together,” Mackey said at the time, “and hopefully he’ll be in a position to take over on his own when the old fart can’t do this anymore.”

Mackey was involved in the construction and opening of two racetracks, Arapahoe Park in Aurora, Colo, and the coversion of a shuttered harness track, Muskegon Race Course in western Michigan, into Great Lakes Downs, according to Kenn Christopher, the former executive director of the Michigan Racing Commission who worked with Mackey at Detroit Race Course early in their careers.

“He was, in my estimation, one of the top racing officials in the country,” Christopher said. “He could do anything.”

According to a website set up by his family, Mackey was surrounded by his wife, Nellie, and five children when he died.

“One of the last words out of his mouth before going to sleep [on Saturday night] was ‘God, Nell, I love you,’ with his arms stretched out to her,” Mackey’s son Michael Jr. wrote on the site.