‘Passionate’ 28-Year Breeders’ Cup Executive Pamela Blatz-Murff Dies At 70

by | 07.07.2018 | 1:35pm
Pamela Blatz-Murff

The following obituary was written by Tiffany Wesley, daughter of Pamela Blatz-Murff. Ms. Wesley confirmed that Ms. Blatz-Murff, former Senior Vice President of Operations for Breeders' Cup Limited, passed away on July 5 in Dallas, Texas, after a recurrent, yet short battle with cancer. She was 70.

Pam Blatz-Murff had a vital, 30+ year career in Thoroughbred racing, most of it with Breeders' Cup Limited, where she specialized in all things involving the equine athlete. She changed the landscape for Thoroughbred equine health and safety and was an expert in national and international equine transport and quarantine requirements. She always believed that horses were the number one priority and she worked effortlessly to establish enhanced medication and drug regulations with racing authorities nationwide. Ms. Blatz-Murff also devoted her time to numerous racing and equine organizations, establishing long-lasting relationships with fellow national and international racing colleagues.

Ms. Blatz-Murff grew up in La Jolla, Calif., and fell in love with horses as a young girl, riding quarter horses and showing Western in Southern California, while the Blatz family raced Thoroughbreds at the local tracks. Her mother bought a half interest in 1980 Santa Monica Handicap winner Flack Flack, who would later be bred to Triple Crown winner Secretariat in Lexington. Ms. Blatz-Murff, who was working in commercial real estate at the time, took a family trip to see the foal drop in Lexington. Complications delayed Flack Flack's delivery 10 days, but during that time, Ms. Blatz-Murff fell in love with Lexington's horse country and racing at Keeneland. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband Clay left Los Angeles for Lexington and she started with the fledgling Breeders' Cup. There she began her dream of working in horse racing, using her real estate skills to make cold calls to stallion farms across the country explaining the program and encouraging them to nominate their stallions.

With an extraordinary response from the breeding community, which raised millions in support of the first Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park in California in 1984, the event became an instant hit and Ms. Blatz-Murff's responsibilities grew to oversee the Racing and Nomination programs for the organization.

Throughout her 28 years with the Breeders' Cup, Ms. Blatz-Murff managed not only the organization's equine, racing and horseman operations, but created the worldwide foal and stallion nomination program; the organization's relationship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the Breeders' Cup Challenge for World Championships qualifying races, and Stakes and Nominator incentive programs and awards.

During Ms. Blatz-Murff's tenure, the Breeders' Cup grew from a one-day event of seven races and $10 million in purses to a two-day event of 14 races and more than $25 million in purses and awards.

Ms. Blatz-Murff's commitment and passion for the equine athlete led to protocols and programs that are used worldwide today. She developed, executed and enforced strict drug and medication regulations not only for all Breeders' Cup races, but also on a national scale as a 21-year member of the American Horse Council Health and Regulatory Committee where she worked to strengthen the bio-security for the nation's equine population. She was instrumental in the creation of the Breeders' Cup injury management team that consists of the Breeders' Cup Veterinarian Inspection Team, the American Association of Equine Practitioners “On-Call” veterinarians, the USDA, and state, local and federal authorities and agencies.

Ms. Blatz-Murff was passionate about making the Breeders' Cup a truly international day of racing and did everything she could to bring as many international horses to the event as possible.

In 2001, she was honored in Great Britain with the Derby Award for Services to International Racing by the Horserace Writers and Photographers Association of England during a ceremony in London. Ms. Blatz-Murff “was really the advance guard in energizing overseas owners and breeders to nominate and come to the Breeders' Cup,” said former Breeders' Cup president James E. “Ted” Bassett III, to The Blood-Horse. “She was also very effective in establishing the stallion and foal nomination program and shepherding it through some tumultuous peaks and valleys . . . Her body of work was one for which Breeders' Cup should always be appreciative. I have great respect and admiration for what she did, certainly during the years when I was president . . . I still marvel at the relationships she had with the overseas owners and breeders,” he said.

Ms. Blatz-Murff also brought her range of talent and expertise to several equine organizations including the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, where she was a board member and helped raise awareness and funding to support hundreds of retired Thoroughbreds across the country. She was also a member of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission, the Keeneland Association, the Thoroughbred Club of America, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

“She loved horses in every stage,” said Ms. Wesley. “She poured over breeding pedigrees for weeks to make sure it was the right match for our own mares. She visited the fields with her orange bucket to spoil the mares and foals with sweet feed and carrots. She counted noses as they crossed the finish lines on Breeders' Cup day and wrote congratulations to friends, colleagues and owners across the world.”

Ms. Blatz-Murff was also a proud member of the Lexington Chamber Music Festival Board of Directors.

In recent years, Ms. Blatz-Murff shared her time between Lexington and visiting her grandchildren in Dallas. She has two mares at Ashford Stud that are direct decedents to Flack Flack, who brought her to Kentucky: Beefeater Baby, now pensioned, and Starkeeper, in foal to Air Force Blue.

Ms. Wesley said that a celebration of her mother's life will be held in Lexington, Kentucky later this month.

“My mom had two loves: her family and horse racing,” said Ms. Wesley. “She loved being a grammie to my two kiddos more than anything and she supported the sport into her final days watching Royal Ascot and talking about stallions and mares of years past.''

Ms. Wesley requested that contributions in Ms. Blatz-Murff's memory be made to the T. Boone Pickens Center at Faith Presbyterian Hospice, Dallas, Texas.

Statement from Breeders' Cup Limited on the passing of Pamela Blatz-Murff:

“It is with great sorrow that we note the passing of Pam Blatz-Murff, our colleague at the Breeders' Cup from 1984 through 2009.  Pam played a critical role from the beginning of the Breeders' Cup in helping create the nominations and racing programs that are today pillars of one of the world's great racing festivals.  Her commitment to the international character of the event was recognized in the conferring of the Derby Award in 2001 which focused on her “care and passion about the horses themselves: about their owners and breeders; about their trainers and lads.”  Among the many initiatives Pam played a major role in at the Breeders' Cup was the expansion of the event to two days in 2007, formation of the Veterinary Inspection Team and the implementation of the Breeders' Cup Security Protocols.  Most notably, Pam enjoyed the comradery and respect of horsemen both domestically and internationally.  We will miss her passion for Thoroughbred racing and her pride in the Breeders' Cup and extend our deepest sympathies to Pam's daughter Tiffany and the family.”

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