08/15/2008 11:00PM

Versatile executive Bob Benoit dies at 81


Bob Benoit, whose career in racing spanned high-level positions in track management, publicity, and photography, died on Friday at a Los Angeles-area hospital from complications of pneumonia. He was 81.

In recent years, Benoit was best known as the co-founder of Benoit and Associates, which has the track photography business at Del Mar, Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, and Fairplex Park, and also furnishes photos to Daily Racing Form. But his career in racing began more than 50 years ago, when he was hired as a publicity department assistant at Hollywood Park.

Benoit eventually became the publicity director at Hollywood Park, and advanced to become the chief operating officer and general manager of that track.

During the mid-1970s at Hollywood Park, Benoit was the catalyst behind the All-Star Jockey Race, which lured many top riders from across the country for a one-day competition. It was through that exposure to California racing that riders such as Eddie Delahoussaye, Sandy Hawley, Chris McCarron, and Darrel McHargue eventually decided to relocate to the circuit.

Benoit also helped found the Racetrack Chaplaincy of California, and was the long-time editor of Paddock magazine, published every fall by the Oak Tree Racing Association.

Benoit, a native of Indiana, moved to Los Angeles as a youth and attended UCLA, where he was the night sports editor of the school paper, the Daily Bruin. He worked at Playfair Race Course in Washington state as the director of publicity, and was an auxiliary steward there. He also did publicity work for the Hambletonian harness race, when it was still located in DuQuoin, Ill.

Four years ago, Benoit received the inaugural Laffit Pincay Jr. Award at Hollywood Park, which is given to a person who has served the sport with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination, and distinction.

Per his request, there will be no funeral services for Benoit. A memorial service likely will be held during the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita, which begins Sept. 24, according to Rayetta Burr, who founded Benoit and Associates with Benoit and his late wife, Calvine.

Benoit is survived by a son, Steve, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

According to Burr, contributions in Benoit's name can be sent to a racing charity of choice, though Benoit was particularly supportive of charities for injured jockeys, such as the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund.