04/11/2013 12:42PM

Stronach Group hires Ludt, of Vinery and Breeders' Cup, to vice president post


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Tom Ludt, president of Vinery Farms and chairman of Breeders’ Cup Ltd., has been hired by the Stronach Group as a senior vice president and will focus on the company’s relationships with horsemen and bettors, Ludt said Thursday.

Ludt will relocate to California and initially be based at the Stronach Group’s Santa Anita Park, he said. As a condition of his employment, he will not seek re-appointment as chairman of Breeders’ Cup, a term that expires this summer, although he will continue to serve as a director of the group, he said. In addition, Ludt will abstain from voting on Breeders’ Cup host sites.

“It’s a real credit to the Stronach Group that they insisted that there not be a conflict of interest on site selection,” Ludt said.

The Stronach Group is a private company controlled by owner-breeder Frank Stronach, who has spent most of the past year in his native Austria pursuing his political ambitions. The company owns Santa Anita Park, the host of the Breeders’ Cup for four of the past six years, when the upcoming 2013 event is included; Maryland’s Laurel Park and Pimlico Racecourse, the home of the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes; Gulfstream Park in Florida; Golden Gate Fields in Northern California; and a handful of racing-related companies, including the account-wagering company XpressBet, the bet-processing company AmTote, and a half-share in the television company HRTV.

In the new role, Ludt said that he has been asked to “create a better environment” at the company’s racetracks for both horseplayers and horsemen.

“They wanted to invest in a person with knowledge of horses, owners, trainers, and players,” he said. “I’ve been on the farm side, the nonprofit side, and I love to go to the track. [The company] has so much. I’ve got a lot of learning to do, but I’m really excited.”

Over the past five years, Ludt has become one of the most influential racing officials in central Kentucky. In addition to serving as chairman of Breeders’ Cup, he is a former Kentucky racing commissioner, and he played a pivotal role in the state’s effort to devise new medication rules, including casting a decisive vote that struck down a proposed rule that would have banned the use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide in races run in the state. Ludt later supported a rule that would phase out use of the drug, commonly known as Lasix, in the state’s stakes races beginning in 2014, but that rule is expected to be challenged by Kentucky horsemen before it goes into effect.

Vinery Farms currently has operations in Kentucky, Florida, and New York. The farm’s owner, Tom Simon, is currently attempting to sell the company’s holdings. Ludt said that he will continue to be involved in the farm’s management while at the Stronach Group.