Edited National Steeplechase Association release
The National Steeplechase Association announced Jan. 19 that Francis H. "Franny" Abbott Jr. has been named the 14th president of the association, taking over from Jonathan Sheppard, who served 2004-06.
Abbott, 53, said he hopes to make an immediate impact by broadening steeplechasing's position within Thoroughbred racing.
"If I can do anything it will be to bridge the gap between steeplechase racing and flat racing," he said. "It is critical that everyone understands we are all part of the same exciting game. Steeplechasing brings a very important and different product to the Thoroughbred experience. I'm looking forward to working with people in the racing industry in hopes that we can increase our exposure and position both nationally and internationally."
Abbott brings experience in a variety of areas to the position. He directed the successful Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa. for 25 years, overseeing growth in attendance, sponsorship and a more than 10-fold increase in purses when he retired in 2003. In addition, he has been a steward on the circuit and also served on the association's Hearing, Review and Appeals Committee. An NSA board member since 2003, he was the association's secretary from 2004-06.
Outside of steeplechasing, he runs a bloodstock consulting firm, Abbott Bloodstock, which specializes in buying, selling, pedigree analysis, etc. and is active at Thoroughbred sales at Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton and others. Once a partner with his brother Rick in Charlton Bloodstock, Abbott is a graduate of the University of Miami and the Racing Commissioners International stewards school. In addition, Abbott is a partner in Spencer-Abbott Builders. He lives in West Chester, Pa. with his wife Franny and their four sons. Abbott's mother-in-law, Betty Moran, owns Brushwood Stable.
The new president's experience with race meet management will help direct the association and the relationship it has with the 32 race meets on the circuit. NSA racing consists of one-day meets in the East and Midwest during the spring and fall, along with periodic visits to racetracks.
Specifically, Abbott hopes to help steeplechasing pursue pari-mutuel wagering via simulcasting, create a better connection with the Breeders' Cup and NTRA and aim for a major international steeplechase racing day in the United States.
"I am looking forward to working with a talented and enthusiastic board of directors on a number of things," said Abbott. "Steeplechasing does not depend on pari-mutuel wagering, however we are now in a position – with modern technology – to pursue this new source of revenue and exposure."
Abbott follows Hall of Fame trainer Sheppard in the president's post, and aims to position steeplechasing through long-range planning and detailed goal-setting for the future.
"I accepted the position because there are so many things I've wanted to do and so many different possibilities," he said. "The organization may be small, but we can accomplish a great deal if we capitalize on some of our strengths. We really need to step back and see where we want the association to go and how we're going to get there by developing a solid business plan."
The NSA's executive committee was also announced today and includes: Abbott as president, Guy Torsilieri as vice president, Sam Slater as treasurer and Doug Fout as secretary. Outgoing president Sheppard stays on the board as the chairman. The other 10 members of the board are Austin Brown, Edgar Cato, Peter Fenwick, Jack Fisher, Dwight Hall, Gillian Johnston, Ken Luke, Ernie Oare, Frank Petramalo and Peggy Steinman.
Formed by the Jockey Club in 1895, the NSA sanctions all official Thoroughbred racing over jumps in the United States with purses of $5 million annually at 32 race meets and several host racetracks. In 2006, 543 Thoroughbreds participated in NSA races with total attendance at race meets and racetracks of more than one million. The 2007 season begins March 11 at Little Everglades in Dade City, Fla.