The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has gone through many changes since its launch in April 1998, but there have been some constants. One of them is Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, an original member of the NTRA board of directors representing The Jockey Club, of which he is chairman.
Phipps, a director at Bessemer Trust, sponsor of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), and a top Thoroughbred owner/breeder, stepped down from his NTRA post earlier this year. He took part in a question-and-answer session with Blood-HorseNOW news editor Tom LaMarra to discuss the NTRA as the organization seeks to re-invent itself.
You were involved with the NTRA from its inception. What are its major accomplishments in your opinion? Why did you decide to step down from the board?
“I think, and I believe many others share this view, that the NTRA’s most important accomplishments to date have come in the areas of legislation and sponsorship. The NTRA and the NTRA (political action committee) have expanded horse racing’s presence in Washington, D.C., and with contentious issues like Internet wagering being debated, it’s been great to have a Thoroughbred industry resource exerting some influence. They promoted legislation that enabled the removal of the 30% withholding tax on international wagers and they continue with their efforts to protect account wagering.
“In the sponsorship area, I think the image of our industry, and awareness of Thoroughbred racing, have improved immensely through the numerous national sponsors the NTRA has attracted through the years.
“As far as stepping down from the NTRA board, I just felt as though many of their ongoing and future initiatives involve technology, and (Jockey Club president) Alan Marzelli is much more qualified than I am in those areas.”
Was the industry at large, and its infighting, somewhat responsible for the NTRA failing to become a true league office?
“I think that is true to some extent. Some people and some organizations just were not, and are not, willing to give up something for the greater good of the industry. When you talk about 'a true league office,' you’re talking about a professional sports league, like the NFL, for example. You’re talking about an entity whose members share revenues. And they still disagree on many issues. So it’s really hard for organizations that don’t share revenue to always agree on business initiatives, especially if they have to sacrifice anything.”
Is there anything that could have been done differently, or has the NTRA just naturally morphed into a trade association?
“I don’t know what we could have done differently. I don’t look at it as a trade association. I think the (Thoroughbred Racing Associations) is a better example of a trade association in that it’s comprised of all racetracks. The NTRA has many varied constituents.”
The NTRA is at the forefront of national legislative endeavors. Is this something the industry at large takes for granted?
“I would say, yes, some people in our industry probably do take this for granted. I think that’s because lobbying and legislation are not highly visible activities unless you’re in the thick of it in Washington, D.C. I think the NTRA PAC and the American Horse Council have served our industry well, and I’m confident they will continue to do so.”
Where do you see the NTRA headed in the next five years? Will you remain involved on some level?
“The NTRA can bring people to the table, and I think it will continue to do that in the next five years, whether the issue is Internet wagering, back-office technologies for simulcasting, or even illegal medication. I think the NTRA’s convening ability is one of its most important assets.
“The Jockey Club was a founding member of the NTRA and we are as strongly committed to the concept of a national office now as we were 10 or 11 years ago. The Jockey Club and its family of companies will continue to provide support, financial and otherwise, as we have always done. I will remain involved with the NTRA through my connection to The Jockey Club.”