The new and streamlined board of directors of Breeders' Cup believes it's prepared to tackle several major issues, including the organization's joint operating agreement with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, a budget, and a possible increase in purses for the World Thoroughbred Championships.
The 13-member board, elected Jan. 8 but not without controversy, will meet for the first time Jan. 19. Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief Jr. said the board must select a chairman, create two classes of directors that would have staggered rotations, form committees, and identify priorities.
The new board, elected by the 48-member board of trustees that used to make operating decisions, is designed to operate more efficiently. Despite its size, the board is diverse, members said.
"From my point of view, you've got diversity," said Ogden "Dinny" Phipps, The Jockey Club member who noted the Breeders' Cup board has members from California, Florida, Kentucky, New York, and the Mid-Atlantic region. "We've got to realize people are looking for change, and a lot of change will be addressed."
West Point Thoroughbreds president Terry Finley, elected to the new board, said he believes Breeders' Cup will accomplish more through "evolutionary change" rather than "revolutionary change."
The relationship between Breeders' Cup and the NTRA has generated uneasiness in some industry quarters. The organizations have shared a budget since 2001, and will do so again for at least this year.
Phipps, a member of the NTRA board, acknowledged questions linger as to what the NTRA is: a league office, an industry trade group, or a lobbying arm for the industry. "We've got to address these issues with the NTRA in the Breeders' Cup's and industry's best interests," he said.
"Ultimately, to me, the function of the NTRA and Breeders' Cup is to create a league office for the industry, coupled with creating (the World Thoroughbred Championships)," said Satish Sanan, owner of Padua Stables and a new Breeders' Cup board member.
Sanan noted having one person -- Van Clief -- heading Breeders' Cup and the NTRA as commissioner is problematic. He said one organization might have to "collapse into the other one to take out the dysfunctionality."
"I'm very outspoken, and I'm going to be more outspoken now than before," said Sanan, who pushed for sales integrity last summer. "I'm passionate about this industry and have no political agenda. I want to do the right things for the right reasons."
Last fall, Van Clief indicated there was support to accelerate a proposal to raise total purses for the eight World Thoroughbred Championships races from the current $14 million to $20 million by 2010.
"I think it's a pressing issue to some people -- a lot of important people," said Phipps, who won the 2005 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) with his homebred Pleasant Home. "It's not at the top of my list, but that doesn't matter. If the money is there, I think they should get it."
The immediate challenge, however, is unifying a fragmented industry.
"We are going to run this thing as well as we can," Phipps said. "We just have to remember who our stakeholders are."
"I'm charged up and enthusiastic about it," Sanan said. "The institutional knowledge is there, and the new members can learn from that. But the proof is going to be in the pudding. Can this board focus on four or five key items in the next 12 months? If we don't execute, we need to be replaced."