NTRA Loses Support of 22 Racetracks

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association was dealt a blow Friday when 22 racetracks announced they were withdrawing their memberships next year. Abandoning the NTRA are all the Mid-Atlantic racetracks and the seven tracks owned and operated by Magna Entertainment.

Racetrack executives said they made the decision with a "profound sense of regret and disappointment," according to a joint statement issued Friday by Hawthorne Race Course. They said they still believed that great benefit is derived from having a centralized national office to create a strong brand for the sport and grow the sport through a nationally-coordinated marketing plan.

"Unfortunately, as the NTRA has sought to become financially self-sustaining, it has pursued policies and engaged in practices directly inimical to the business interests of many of its members," the statement said. "The NTRA has failed to recognize the volatile and complex competitive dynamics that its members face in today's marketplace, with rapidly-evolving technologies and an ever-changing legal and regulatory framework."

Racetracks that endorsed the statement are: Atlantic City Race Course, Bay Meadows Race Course, Charles Town Races, Colonial Downs, Delaware Park, Fair Grounds, Garden State Park, Golden Gate Fields, Great Lakes Downs, Gulfstream Park, Hawthorne Race Course, Laurel Park, The Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, Oaklawn Park, Penn National Race Course, Philadelphia Park, Pimlico Race Course, Remington Park, Santa Anita Park, Timonium, and Thistledown.

NTRA officials reserved comment on the statement until after a board of directors teleconference scheduled for this afternoon.
"We have to analyze the statement first and talk with the directors," said Chip Tuttle, the NTRA's vice president of communications.

The following is the statement issued by Hawthorne in its entirety:

From Hawthorne racetrack...

October 27--Hawthorne Racecourse, along with 21 other racetracks, including all the racetracks in the Mid-Atlantic Region and the group of tracks owned and operated by Magna Entertainment Corp., announced today that they were collectively withdrawing from the NTRA (National Thoroughbred Racing Association) by electing to not renew their memberships for the coming year. The tracks joined in issuing the following statement:

"We take this action today with a profound sense of regret and disappointment. We enthusiastically joined in the formation of the NTRA three years ago with great optimism and excitement. We still believe strongly in the fundamental concept that formed the foundation of the creation of the NTRA-that is, that thoroughbred racing should reap great benefits from a centralized national office with a mandate to create a strong brand for our great sport and to grow the business of thoroughbred racing through a nationally-coordinated marketing plan.

Unfortunately, as the NTRA has sought to become financially self-sustaining, it has pursued policies and engaged in practices directly inimical to the business interests of many of its members, including the undersigned. The NTRA has failed to recognize the volatile and complex competitive dynamics that its members face in today's marketplace, with rapidly-evolving technologies and an ever-changing legal and regulatory framework.

We continue to believe strongly in the need for a viable national association which, as was stated in the original Strategic Business Plan of the NTRA, exists in order " to improve economic conditions-e.g., revenues, attendance, handle, purses, breeding values, etc.-for all stakeholders in the industry, and has, as its primary strategic mission establishing and accomplishing objectives "in the areas of marketing and communication: national and co-op advertising, establishing (thoroughbred racing) as a "brand", raising racing's profile on national television, and initiating fan education and customer service programs.

Therefore, we invite our colleagues throughout the United States
horseracing industry to work with us to develop a consensus on the critical issue of how best to market and promote our great sport on both a national and regional level to benefit all shareholders in the industry."

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