by | 11.17.2010 | 12:46am

(From Del Mar Thoroughbred Club) 

Robert P. (Bob ) Benoit, 81, died Friday afternoon at Centinela Valley Hospital in Inglewood, Calif., after a lengthy illness. Cause of death was pneumonia.

Benoit, a longtime Thoroughbred racing executive in Southern California, founded and  was president of Benoit and Associates, track photographers on the circuit of Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Del Mar and Fairplex Park.

Born in Gary, Indiana, on February 8, 1927, he attended grade school in his home state before his family moved to Los Angeles. He was a 1945 graduate of Los Angeles High School and served in the U.S. Army through 1947. Upon his discharge, he  attended U.C.L.A. where he was night sports editor of the school newspaper, The Daily Bruin, writing a turf column and handicapping Southland races.  He left U.C.L.A. to become sports editor of the Inglewood Daily News, home newspaper of Hollywood Park, in 1951.

He took a seasonal job on Hollywood Park Publicity Director Al Wesson's staff in 1953 and became a year-round staff member in 1955 when he was named Assistant Publicity Director. He became Director of Publicity in 1969 and eventually was elected to the Board of Directors and named Chief Operating Officer and General Manager in 1977.

He was instrumental in forming the Racetrack Chaplaincy of California and in bringing jockeys Sandy Hawley, Chris McCarron, Eddie Delahoussaye and Darrel McHargue to Southern California.

Additionally, he was Director of Publicity at Playfair Race Course in Spokane, Washington and  served as an auxiliary steward representing the Washington Horse Racing Commission. He also was a partner in a public relations firm which promoted the Hambletonian Trotting Classic at DuQuoin, Illinois and the Junior Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

In 2004, he became the first recipient of the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award, given to a person who has served the sport with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination and distinction.

“To be the inaugural winner of an indescribable honor, the high point of my career of more than a half-century, I'm truly overwhelmed,” said Benoit.

Funeral services are pending.

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