Lloyd Arnold dies at 83; helped revive harness racing in California

Lloyd Arnold, the former co-owner of Los Alamitos Race Course who helped revive harness racing in Southern California in the 1980s, died Sunday in La Quinta. He was 83 and had cancer.

“He made harness racing on the West Coast,” said Kirk Breed, executive director of the California Horse Racing Board. “There’s never been anybody like him and probably never will be.”

Born Jan. 5, 1929, in Douds, Iowa, Arnold spent half a lifetime trading in hogs, cattle and pork bellies. He was the original owner of Arnold Cattle Co. in Iowa and graduated at 18 from an auction school in Decatur, Ind.

“They sure taught me how to talk fast ... how to think fast too,” Arnold said in a 1981 Times story.

He ran cattle auctions in Iowa and Colorado and then became an expert commodities trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, buying and selling hogs and pork bellies.

In the 1960s and ‘70s he raced hundreds of Standardbreds in Illinois and across the Midwest.

He moved to California in 1975 supposedly to relax and slow down but instead became a salesman and enthusiast for harness racing. He became president and general manager of the Southern California Racing Assn. and ran harness meets in Sacramento, at Bay Meadows in San Mateo and at Los Alamitos.

“Lloyd was a true impresario,” said Breed, who was general manager of the Cal Expo in Sacramento from 1979 to 1985. “He gave away gold Cadillacs, trucks full of groceries. He would have all kinds of promotions to get peoples’ butts into the seats. He loved harness racing. The great thing about Lloyd was if you didn’t have enough horses to run a great program, he’d go across the country to add to the number. He had the willingness to make every race the best possible.”

In 1983, Arnold was the successful bidder on the most expensive Standardbred yearling ever sold up to that time, the $625,000 pacing filly Laugh A Day.

Arnold became co-owner of Los Alamitos Race Course in 1989 after paying $72 million to Hollywood Park Realty Enterprises and promoted the sport through his organization, the Los Alamitos Racing Assn., until retiring from running meets in 1992.

“We’ve succeeded, I would say, to the extent that we’ve kept the night [parimutuel] industry alive,” he said in 1992. “I said when we came in that if we got the horses, we ought to be able to survive.”

Arnold’s former partner at Los Alamitos, Dr. Edward C. Allred, said he was on his way to visit Arnold one last time Sunday but arrived half an hour after Arnold’s death.

“He had great integrity and devotion to his sport,” Allred said.

Arnold was a major campaign contributor to Gov. Jerry Brown during his first two terms as governor and to other politicians in trying to help get support for harness racing.

Arnold received an owner-of-the-year award from the U.S. Harness’ Writers’ Assn. in 2001. He owned one of the sport’s top horses, Quik Pulse Mindale, the fastest 3-year-old pacer in North America in 2004, and the world champion mare pacer Sanabelle Island, who won $1.5 million in her racing career.

He is survived by his wife of 15 years, Sylvia; his children from his first marriage, daughter Cindy Farruggio of Yardley, Pa., and son Doug of Fairfield, Iowa; three stepchildren, 14 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, a sister and a brother. His first wife, Nancy, died in 1996.

A celebration of his life will take place Thursday at 1 p.m. at Forest Lawn Mortuary, 96855 Ramon Road, Cathedral City.