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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Newswriter — Phil Langley, 83, president of the USTA for 13 years, died April 11, 2020. He was elected as a USTA director in 1983 and became president in 2003 before resigning at the close of 2016.

His leadership at the USTA was characterized by great advances in technology, such as online entry for races at all levels and a social media presence that made it possible for people across the globe to follow racing’s people and horses at any time, on any electronic device.

Mr. Langley, a native of Wisconsin, learned about racing from his father, who was a mailman, restaurant owner and in the 1930s, took over administration of the Elkhorn Fair and later the Wisconsin State Fair.

“I learned to read by helping my dad figure out which horses qualified for a race,” Mr. Langley said.

As a boy, he saw the 1943 Hambletonian winner Volo Song race at Elkhorn, Wisc,, where his father was race secretary.  The trotter suffered a fatal broken bone and had to be euthanized, a memory that stayed with Mr. Langley throughout his life.

“My dad stayed with him at the vets until they gave up. Sad day in Elkhorn,” he said decades later.

Mr. Langley graduated from Dartmouth University in 1959 with a history degree, a passion he continued as a racing official, with a Standardbred library whose titles stretched back to the Civil War.

Mr. Langley’s career as a race secretary and executive centered on the Chicago tracks, and he held management positions at Sportsman’s Park and was director of racing at Balmoral and Maywood Park. He was part of the ownership group of both those tracks.

He was inducted into the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Hall of Fame in 1994 and into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., where he was also a trustee, in 2007.

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