Citing budgetary constraints, the National Steeplechase Association announced Friday, Dec. 28, that it has eliminated the position of chief operating officer.The NSA announced that the decision would end the tenure of Leslie Shantz, effective Dec. 31. Hired at the start of 2001, Shantz filled the COO that was establlished after the retirement of longtime executive vice president Charles Colgan in 2000."We have eliminated the job, and we don't really have a choice because of financial reasons," said NSA president George Strawbridge. "We're not replacing (Shantz)."With Shantz' responsibilities to be assumed by other employees, Strawbridge said the NSA's function and service to constituents would not be affected by the move."We are a racing organization first and secondly we are a service organization, and we should be able to do both of those things as well as we have been," Strawbridge said. "We have a very knowledgeable and competent staff in place. Like always, we plan to work to improve our racing product, and increase the level of services we provide."The NSA also announced purses topped the $5-million mark for the first time in 2001 as 227 individual races worth a total of $5,129,333 were contested. The fifth consecutive record NSA purse figure represents an increase of $328,000 over 2000, while the race total is up from 206 in the prior year and is the highest since 1996 when 240 races were carded. In all, the NSA sanctioned 35 race meets in 2001 and visited nine racetracks. Major races included the $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase, the $175,000 Royal Chase and eight stakes worth $100,000.