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California harness racing loses its best friend; Alan Horowitz was 72

Alan Horowitz, then general manager of Capitol Racing, looks over the track at Cal Expo in 2002. He died April 22 at age 72.
Alan Horowitz, then general manager of Capitol Racing, looks over the track at Cal Expo in 2002. He died April 22 at age 72. Sacramento Bee file

Alan Horowitz, who led the California Harness Horsemen’s Association for 36 years and brought harness racing back to Sacramento, died Saturday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 72.

“It is impossible to overstate Alan’s importance to the harness racing industry in California,” said CHHA president David Neumeister. “Simply put, if it were not for Alan, the sport would no longer exist in this state.”

Horowitz also served as general manager of Capitol Racing, which operated Cal Expo’s harness racing for several years.

“He was a hero,” said Jim Perez, CHHA’s current executive director. “He didn’t worry about himself, just the horsemen. He was also just the nicest man you’d ever meet.”

Cal Expo will host a memorial race in his honor this fall, Perez said.

Horowitz is survived by his son, screenwriter Michael Horowitz; daughter Jessica Rhoades, a TV producer; and grandchildren Emerson and Campbell Rhoades.

Then a psychology professor at UC Davis, Horowitz got into racing as an owner. In the early 1970s, he bought a pacer named Quaker Byrd with friends Donald and Barbara Arnstine and trainer Steve Desomer. His first horse won his first start and Horowitz was hooked.

“Some things in life you can deliberately plan for, you strive for as a goal,” he said in 2002. “But other things just happen.”

By 1975, Horowitz joined the board of directors for the Western Standardbred Association, CHHA’s predecessor, and soon became executive director.

“I guess you could describe the job as everything from chief cook and bottle washer to administrator,” Horowitz said before his 2013 retirement. “It’s often been an uphill battle for harness racing in California, but it’s a testament to our horsemen that we’ve survived.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

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