Kenneth “Kenny” Noe Jr., the president of Calder Race Course during a period of growth and renovations in the 1980s, died Sunday.
Noe was 84. The official cause of death was listed as heart failure.
He was president of the Miami Gardens track now known as Calder Casino & Race Course from 1979 to 1990.
He quickly built a reputation for focusing on what was best for the horses, while knowing how that could lead to better racing.
“When Kenny came to Calder, it was all mud and very bad on the backside [stables],” said Luis Olivares, an owner and trainer who has been based at Calder since the 1970s.
“They cleaned it up and did a lot of other work around the track,” Ollvares said.
“He did a lot for the racing. They added the Florida Stallion Stakes and other big stakes, and kept raising [race] purses.”
According to Calder’s media guide, it spent about $10.5 million on improvements at the property between 1980 and 1984.
Calder was then owned by the family of William L. McKnight.
The track has been sold three times since 1988. Churchill Downs Inc. of Louisville, Ky., has owned it since 1999.
Kenneth Noe Sr., Noe’s father, was a thoroughbred trainer.
“Kenny grew up in racing and learned everything there is about running a track,” said Bill Greely, who worked with Noe at Hialeah Park in the early 1970s and was later president of Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.
Noe Jr. was a firm leader who was never hesitant to make a tough decision and stand by it.
One example was in October 1989 when Calder and Hialeah, just 11 miles apart, were racing on the same days.
Calder had an advantage with more horses in its stable.
Noe set this policy, and in several cases carried it out: If a Calder trainer sends a horse to race at Hialeah, it will not be allowed back into Calder.
The result was that Hialeah was not able to fill fields for races and obtained permission from state regulators to call off its race meet.
Noe balanced his style that was sometimes called “my way or the highway” with concern for track employees, trainers and owners.
“He became like a father to me,” Olivares said. “Horsemen could always go to him, and he treated everyone with respect.”
After he left Calder, Noe was president and later chairman of the board of the New York Racing Association, which owns and operates Saratoga Race Course, Belmont Park and Aqueduct. He retired in 2000.
Noe was born in 1928 at Hamilton, Ohio,
Before working at Calder, he was the racing secretary at Hialeah and previously at thoroughbred tracks in New York, New Jersey and Illinois.
Noe was a past director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau and the Miami Heart Institute.
He is survived by his daughter Holly and his son Jeff, the racing secretary at Gulfstream Park.
A visitation and funeral service will be held Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Fred Hunter Hollywood Memorial Garden Home, 6201 Taft St. in Hollywood.
In lieu of flowers, Noe’s family has requested donations be sent to Thoroughbred After-Care Program Inc. at Gulfstream Park.