Vic Zast, a racetrack executive, businessman, turf writer, and ardent racing fan, died Aug. 3 in Wilmette, Ill. Zast, who had been a regular contributor to The Blood-Horse and authored the "Saratoga Diary" blog at Bloodhorse.com from 2006-13, was 69.
Named after the day he was born -- Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945 -- Victor Edward Zast was raised in Buffalo, N.Y., and graduated from Siena College and the University of Buffalo Law School.
After beginning his business career as one of five original upper management employees with the fragrance company Jovan Inc., Zast moved on to be senior vice president of marketing for Jim Beam Brands. Zast was credited with partnering Jim Beam with Latonia Racecourse (now Turfway Park) for the distiller's sponsorship of the track's Spiral Stakes.
From there, he held his first position within the racing industry as president of Delaware North Companies (Sportsystems) that owned and managed Thoroughbred and harness tracks and entertainment venues. Zast went on to become CEO of four fragrance companies, including two of which he owned.
But it was as a racing fan and author that Zast derived the greatest pleasure, combining an avocation with vocation. With his distinctive gravely voice and disheveled white hair, Zast was a regular at the most prominent race meets and major events, including the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup World Championships. He was also a board member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association.
Accompanied by his wife, Maureen, Zast traveled to racetracks all over the world, chronicling those adventures in a "Destinations" series published by The Blood-Horse magazine.
Zast was particularly proud of his attendance at every Breeders' Cup since its inception, a streak that appeared would end last November due to his ill health. However, Zast and his family persevered and he was there for the 30th World Championships, his spotless record forever etched in history.
He was equally proud of Saratoga and its racecourse, having been a regular there for 49 years. In celebration of the historic track, Zast authored "The History and Art of 25 Travers."
Another project by Zast in recent years was a road trip he and two companions took from Chicago to the Arctic to play golf at midnight on the summer solstice. They were accompanied by an urn containing the ashes of a deceased friend who had been the fourth member of their regular golfing group. The journey in a recreational vehicle was captured by a film crew, with the resulting "Our Longest Drive" airing as a six-part series on The Golf Channel in 2012.
In addition to The Blood-Horse, Zast was a contributor to the New York Times, ESPN.com, MSNBC.com, The Paulick Report, Thoroughbred Times, and HorseRaceInsider.com.
Zast is survived by Maureen, his children Jon, Annie, and Biz, and daughter-in-law Theresa and son-in-law Micah.
A memorial is scheduled for the Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, Ill., for Aug. 7. A memorial will be held in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the morning of Aug. 17 at a location and time to be announced later.