An official at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Ariz, said the track left the National Thoroughbred Racing Association because no one seems to care, but an NTRA official said that's not the case at all. Turf Paradise is the 23rd racetrack to defect from the NTRA for 2001.
"No one asked me to renew my membership, and I didn't hear anything from any of the dissident tracks," said Randy Fozzard, president and general manager of Turf Paradise. "I'm just going to sit on the fence and see how things shake out."
NTRA spokesman Chip Tuttle said the organization has had ongoing discussions with Fozzard since last fall, and even before that. He said Keith Chamblin, the NTRA's vice president of marketing, spoke to Fozzard the week of Jan. 1.
Turf Paradise, one of the initial supporters of the NTRA, pays about $75,000 to $80,000 a year in dues. Tuttle said the track did not take advantage of the NTRA's cooperative advertising program.
In late October, 22 racetracks that account for almost $2.5 million in annual dues left the NTRA. Most of them are located in the Mid-Atlantic region or owned by Magna Entertainment.
Fozzard said it was during the NTRA's Western Conference on Racing in California in October that he really felt shunned. At the conference, Fozzard noticed the NTRA set up its mobile marketing exhibit called the "NTRA Racing Experience."
"You know, to bring that display to Los Angeles, they had to come right through Phoenix," Fozzard said. "They didn't even think about stopping here for 30 minutes on the way. It was during the heart of our race meet, and it sure seemed logical to me. I just didn't feel that Turf Paradise was real important to them, so I don't need to show my support to them."
Tuttle said Turf Paradise was represented at the NTRA's Marketing Summit in March, 2000, and that officials from the track were told along with other members how to arrange for a visit from the mobile marketing tool. Tracks must make the arrangements through the NTRA, Tuttle said.
"We would have been happy to bring the truck to Phoenix," Tuttle said.
Tuttle said Turf Paradise announced its intention last year not to renew its membership in the NTRA, though the door remains open. "We've had ongoing dialogue," he said.