02/09/2011 4:21PM

Thoroughbred Owners of California begin search to replace Zetcher

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ARCADIA, Calif. – The Thoroughbred Owners of California has launched a search within its board of directors for a replacement for chairman Arnold Zetcher, who announced his resignation late Monday.

Zetcher said on Wednesday that his resignation takes effect at the next board meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 16, when the TOC is expected to elect an interim chairman until the one-year term expires in August. A new chairman will be elected in the summer after new board of director elections are conducted.

Three executive members of the TOC board said on Wednesday that they will not seek the role of interim chairman because it is too time-consuming, the reason Zetcher gave for resigning. They are Pete Parrella, who operates a lumber company and Legacy Ranch in Northern California and serves as TOC’s treasurer; Pablo Suarez, who is the president of a pharmaceutical company and TOC secretary; and Brian Boudreau, a real estate developer and owner of Malibu Valley Farms and the TOC vice chairman in Southern California. Keith Pronske, the TOC vice-chairman in Northern California and the president of an energy company, was not available for comment.

“I’ve got my lumber company and my ranch and I don’t have the time to do it,” Parrella said. “We’re pursuing some avenues and hopefully we’ll come up with someone who has the knowledge and energy to keep us going. It was kind of a shock.”

Suarez said he was canvassing members of the board of directors on Wednesday morning for a possible replacement, but said he would pass himself.

“I don’t think I would be able to do it because it involves so much time,” he said.

Boudreau said there are “three, four, five, or six” board members that could fill the chair. “I’m not seeking it at all,” he said.

Other members of the board of directors are Madeline Auerbach, Martin Bach, Cal Fischer, Billy Koch, Jack Owens, Mike Pegram, and Don Valpredo. Bob Baffert, Ron Ellis, and Ed Moger are on the board as owner-trainers.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California is the state’s official representative for horsemen, and work with racetracks on issues such as purse agreements and promoting racehorse ownership.

As chairman, Zetcher frequently attended California Horse Racing Board meetings, was in close contact with Santa Anita officials last fall on the construction of a new sand-and-clay racing surface, and worked with racetrack executives on controversial legislation in 2010 that increased the takeout on exotic bets. A majority of the proceeds from the additional takeout has been dedicated to overnight purses.

Boudreau said the resignation of Zetcher as chairman will cost the sport an ambassador.

“Arnold was an unbelievable gift to the industry,” he said.

Zetcher, 70, said on Wednesday that he wants to focus on the racing stable he shares with his wife, Ellen, which includes 16 runners and six 2-year-olds that will arrive at the track soon.

“I want to get back to being a horse owner,” Zetcher said. “We’ve got a pretty large stable and it continues to need attention.”

He described the chairmanship as “almost a full-time job.”

Zetcher retired as chief executive officer of Talbot’s, a chain of women’s clothing stores, in August 2007 and retired as the company’s chairman in March 2008. He joined the TOC board in 2009.

“This is a time I want to enjoy it all,” he said of racing.