03/06/2008 12:00AM

Raffetto to take steeplechase post

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Veteran racing executive Lou Raffetto has been hired to fill the newly created position of chief executive officer of the National Steeplechase Association, it was announced Thursday.

A release by the steeplechase association said Raffetto will "manage company operations and direct plans for the future" at the company's headquarters in Fair Hill, Md. The release said the CEO position was created in the hope of expanding the scope of steeplechase racing in North America.

In late November, after nearly seven years, Raffetto abruptly departed his post at Pimlico and Laurel with the Maryland Jockey Club. He had been named president of the MJC in 2006 by parent company Magna Entertainment Corp. after previously serving as chief operating officer. Before that, he had been the longtime general manager of Suffolk Downs in Boston after serving in numerous positions at East Coast racetracks.

With the steeplechase association, Raffetto will oversee a staff of four. The group's president, Franny Abbott, said the company was "lucky to have someone of his caliber available" for the position.

The National Steeplechase Association is the official governing body of steeplechase racing in North America. Last year, its purses reached a record $5.3 million. The 2008 season begins March 22 in Aiken, S.C.