Lisa Underwood, former executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, died Saturday of a heart attack at age 57, according to an obituary.
The first woman to run the agency, Underwood left the commission in 2011 to return to private law practice after five years at the helm under Gov. Steve Beshear and commission chairman Bob Beck Jr. Under her tenure, the state oversaw an expansion of gambling at racetracks with “instant” or historical racing machines and implemented more stringent drug protocols, including out-of-competition testing for blood doping and testing for anabolic steroids.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Underwood said in October 2011 in her emotional farewell speech to the commission. Previously an attorney with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, she rejoined the firm after leaving state government and represented The Red Mile when it pursued historical racing in partnership with Keeneland in 2014.
She also was instrumental in the hiring of the state agency’s first medical director.
Racing commission executive director Marc Guilfoil said Tuesday that the commission uses many of the protocols and procedures that Underwood implemented.
“She was an amazing lady. ... She wasn’t scared to tackle anything,” Guilfoil said. “She upped the game in everything we had. She hired the first supervisor of parimutuel wagering we ever had, even though the rule had been on the books forever. She was a very sharp lady and a good person. ... She did the right thing, constantly, no matter how unpopular it was.”
Underwood is survived by her husband, Richard Young; her father, former mayor pro tem Tom Underwood; and her brother, Trip Underwood.
The funeral will be 11 a.m. Thursday at Christ Church Cathedral, with interment following at Lexington Cemetery. Visitation will be at the church from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations to Old Friends Farm of Georgetown or The Race Track Chaplaincy of America.