The defection of Churchill Downs Inc. from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association won’t impact Churchill Downs’ hosting of this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Breeders’ Cup, as part of a joint operating agreement it entered with the NTRA in 2001, adopted a policy whereby only NTRA-member racetracks could host the event. The joint operating agreement ended in 2008.
The NTRA members-only policy was abandoned soon after the two organizations in 2006 agreed to have separate budgets. They continued to work on joint projects for the next few years.
“While Breeders’ Cup remains a strong supporter and dues-paying member of the NTRA, it is no longer a policy of our organization to restrict hosting the Championships to racing associations that are members of the NTRA,” Breeders’ Cup president Greg Avioli said May 10.
CDI, which owns Churchill, Arlington Park, Calder Race Course, and Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, notified the NTRA the week of May 3 it wouldn’t renew its membership for 2010 but would revisit the decision in future years. CDI would have paid $375,000 in dues this year.
The NTRA for various reasons has backed away from spending a large part of its budget on getting horse racing on television, a decision that didn't sit well with some industry officials. CDI this year spent about $2 million to line up TV coverage of major preps for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The NTRA in recent years has focused on legislative advocacy, particularly in Washington, D.C., in an effort to protect the pari-mutuel wagering system and simulcast rights and win tax relief for owners, breeders, and bettors. It also took the lead in the area of equine safety through its Safety and Integrity Alliance, which was launched in 2008.
Churchill in 2010 will become the first non-NTRA-member racetrack to host the Breeders’ Cup since the NTRA was launched in 1998. No host sites have been named beyond this year.