Ralph Vacca, former Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association general manager and longtime area horseman and industry leader, died in his Auburn home last Monday. He was 84.

Bud, as he was nicknamed by his father, grew up in the Rainier Valley and graduated from Franklin High School. He later attended Washington State University.

Vacca counted his “best moment” as the first time he walked through the back gates of Longacres and trainer G.L. Martin handed him a shank attached to the filly Seattle Belle to walk, telling him to “take her to the left.” “ … walking a real racehorse was the most profound feeling I’ve ever experienced.”

Among the many innovations Vacca fostered was the institution of phone bidding at the 1977 WHBA winter sale.

Longtime friend, mentor and Washington Racing Hall of Famer, the late Pete Pedersen, wrote: “There were a few visionaries before him, but Ralph picked up the reins early on and held a steady and progressive course.”

Among his awards were induction into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame (2013) and the S.J. Agnew Special Achievement Award (1990).