A series of experts and National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Commissioner Tim Smith discussed horseracing's accomplishments and challenges relative to competitors in the sports marketplace today at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program Symposium on Racing in Tucson, Ariz. Smith also provided an update on NTRA membership issues. Smith led a contingent of speakers that included Breeders' Cup President and NTRA Vice Chairman D.G. Van Clief Jr.; Host Communications Chief Executive Officer W. James Host; Lou Guth, Senior Vice President of National Economic Research Associates; industry consultant Michael D. Shagan; and Merkley Newman Harty Senior Vice President-Business Development Steve Bowen, as well
as members of the NTRA staff. Smith announced a $53 million operating budget for the combined NTRA-Breeders' Cup operation. Regarding membership matters affecting the NTRA, Smith was upbeat while cautioning the industry that its competitors are not standing still. "I'm optimistic that some of the withdrawing members will return. I think it will be early next year before we know for sure ... in the meantime, we are moving forward with a solid plan and all of our core programs," Smith said. "To be blunt, we do not have the luxury of continuing to spend so much time and energy on internal battles when, at our unified best, we have the strength to compete successfully in a crowded marketplace."Bowen reviewed the competitive marketplace as background to his presentation of the NTRA television ads to debut in 2001. Host, whose company has recently been named the NTRA's sponsorship agency, discussed horseracing's sponsorship opportunities. Other highlights included:-- A presentation by the NTRA Task Force on Economic Regulation on the negative effects of excessive regulation on horseracing's ability to compete in the gaming and entertainment marketplace;-- A discussion by NTRA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Greg Avioli on the NTRA's legislative spending ($750,000 budgeted for 2001, up from $600,000 in 2000 and $150,000 in 1999), and how it compares to lobbying budgets for other sporting and gaming interests; and-- NTRA Charities initiatives and a presentation by Bryan Pettigrew, NTRA vice president-sponsorships, of a new public service announcement for Ronald McDonald House Charities that features racehorse owner and McDonald's franchisee Mike Pegram.