NTRA Board Takes No Action on 'Tour' Contract
by Tom LaMarra
Date Posted: 6/10/2005 12:55:05 PM
Last Updated: 6/12/2005 12:53:44 PM

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association took no action June 9 on a proposed contract with the Thoroughbred Championship Tour, a proposed series of big-event racing days scheduled to commence in 2006.

The TCT, which sprang from the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association several years ago, recently signed contracts with Breeders' Cup, which will contribute $15 million in purse supplements for the series over five years, and the New York Racing Association, which will host a substantial number of the graded stakes in the series.

Breeders' Cup president and NTRA commissioner D.G. Van Clief Jr. called the TCT deal a "tripartite" agreement, or one with three components. Though Breeders' Cup and the NTRA have a joint operating agreement, the NTRA board of directors must sign the TCT contract.

The NTRA would provide television and sponsorship support for the series, which is designed to encourage participation by racehorse owners who would have an equity interest in the TCT. The series would package key stepping stones to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships but would offer its own bonus program.

"There was some discussion, but no action was taken (by the board)," Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of industry development and marketing, said of the TCT contract. "It was more of an update on the process. Our next board meeting is scheduled for September, but there's the possibility a teleconference could be held between now and then (to address the TCT)."

Announcement of the contract with NYRA was a major milestone for the TCT as it attempts to get deals in place with racing associations and horsemen. The business plan calls for tracks and horsemen to contribute a percentage of wagering revenue to support the series.

Andy Schweigardt, director of industry relations and development for TOBA, said Belmont Park and Saratoga have 15 stakes on the proposed TCT schedule. Twelve of the stakes are grade I, and three are grade II in 2005, according to the American Graded Stakes Committee.

The TCT proposal calls for stakes in the series to carry purses of $500,000 to $1 million. Purses for seven of the New York stakes fall short of that mark, which is where the purse supplements from Breeders' Cup enter the equation. Also, some rescheduling of the events would be needed to package them on the big-event days.

In other NTRA business, Chamblin said the board of directors announced no membership renewals for 2006-10. All membership contracts expire at the end of this year, and thus far only the Thoroughbred Owners of California--which has paid about $1.8 million a year--has announced membership renewal.

"Based on verbal commitments received from a number of members, we're in the neighborhood of having a commitment for $7.5 million in dues toward our goal of $10 million," Chamblin said. "We'll be announcing some specific renewals in the near future."

Said Van Clief: "We have commitments from members representing a majority of track and horsemen dues and are on target to achieve, and possibly exceed, our renewal objectives."

For 2005, membership dues account for 26% of the $65.6 million joint operating budget of the NTRA and Breeders' Cup.

NTRA officials have said they plan to attend the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association summer convention in Ontario in late July in part to discuss membership with horsemen's groups. Though the National HBPA has about 30 affiliates, only nine are NTRA members, according to the NTRA annual report for 2005.

There also has been no word on the intentions of three major racing entities--Churchill Downs Inc., Magna Entertainment Corp., and NYRA--regarding renewal of their memberships in the NTRA.

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