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After a year marred by horse deaths, CHRB head Rick Baedeker says he’s retiring

Rick Baedeker, who has been executive director of the California Horse Racing Board since 2014, is going to retire from the post before spring.

Baedeker, 70, confirmed his retirement to the Los Angeles Times after a posting appeared on the state of California jobs board for the position he currently holds. The job pays from $130,000 to $145,000.

Baedeker made the decision in July and said simply, “It’s time.”

He added that he was in good health, “so there is still time to travel a bit and spoil the grandson.”

Baedeker was an executive at Hollywood Park before joining the CHRB.

This past year was one of the more difficult years of his tenure. The horse deaths at Santa Anita have put the board in direct conflict, at times, with Santa Anita. In addition, Gov. Gavin Newsom has been critical of the board for perceived conflicts of interest and for how horse racing has been conducted in California. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also has been critical and called for reform in California racing.

There was also criticism of how the board handled a positive test for scopolamine by Triple Crown winner Justify. He was one of several horses that tested positive for the drug, which is not a performance enhancer.

Baedeker is not on the board but acts as a chief operating officer for the body, which does not act like a commissioner’s office but instead is in charge of the regulatory aspects of racing in California.

With the likely resignation of Madeline Auerbach, CHRB vice chairman, and Fred Maas, a commissioner, declining to be reappointed at the beginning of the year, Newsom has the chance to reimagine the board with people he’s appointed.

He named veterinarian Gregory Ferraro to the board last year. Ferraro is a candidate to become the new chairman of the board, replacing Chuck Winner, who declined to be reappointed. Newsom also named Oscar Gonzales and Wendy Mitchell to the board late this year.

Appointees of former Gov. Jerry Brown who remain on the board are Dennis Alfieri and former jockey Alex Solis. Alfieri recently gave up his California owner’s license in an attempt to remove any appearance of conflict of interest.

The divide between Brown and Newsom appointees revealed itself in the September meeting of the board, where Gonzales and Mitchell wanted to give Southern California tracks more time to work out next year’s race dates. They were outvoted by the remainder of the board. The board then voted to give Northern California tracks more time to work out their dates.

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