NTRA Board Reaffirms Support for Organization

NTRA board members said they remain bullish on the organization

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association is moving on in the wake of the defection of Churchill Downs Inc. for at least this year.

According to reports, the NTRA board of directors, during a meeting June 3 in New York, thoroughly discussed the CDI situation and collectively issued its support for the organization moving forward. CDI, which paid the NTRA about $360,000 a year, dropped out in early May but said it would review the decision in future years.

On the membership fence thus far is MI Developments, which took over major properties that had been owned by Magna Entertainment Corp. MID vice chairman Dennis Mills was traveling and couldn’t attend the June 3 board meeting, officials said.

CDI and MEC have “committed” NTRA board seats because under the NTRA bylaws they qualify as multi-track entities that account for at least 10% of national pari-mutuel handle. The New York Racing Association holds the third such seat.

NTRA senior vice president Keith Chamblin said June 4 “the bylaws spell out how to address empty seats.” The bylaws say if no member meets the requirements of such a seat, the board can add an independent racetrack seat.

Del Mar president and general manager Craig Fravel, who used to sit on the NTRA board, will return as an independent director in the former multi-track seat held by CDI president and CEO Bob Evans, officials said.

The Eastern Region independent racetrack board seat held by Delaware Park chief operating officer Bill Fasy is empty because the track dropped out for 2010. The Western Region independent racetrack board seat is held by Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau, whose three-year term is up.

Those two seats will be filled within about 30 days, Chamblin said.

“I came away very upbeat about the attitude of the board members,” NTRA board chairman Bob Elliston, president of Turfway Park, said June 4. “The industry has a tremendous need for the organization because it’s the only common table in the industry that represents all parts of the industry.

“I got really pumped up about the attitude of board members not just to continue the NTRA but needing it even more.”

“The sum of the NTRA is greater than any of its individual parts,” said Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association chairman Reynolds Bell Jr., who sits on the NTRA board. “It is the only organization capable of gathering virtually all segments of the industry in a way that can effectively address our industry’s most significant challenges.

The board is in 100% agreement that, whether it be the work of the Safety and Integrity Alliance, legislative activities in Washington, D.C., or marketing programs like the National Handicapping Championship, the NTRA is "playing an integral role in improving our industry.”

A few weeks before the meeting, NTRA board member Alan Foreman, CEO of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the NTRA can't continue spending time worrying whether CDI is a member or not. "It's time to move on," he said at the time.

The board June 3 discussed membership issues and the “prospects for identifying additional sources of funding,” the NTRA said in a release. The NTRA is in the midst of a multi-year plan to reduce its reliance on membership dues, which account for about 30% of its operating budget.

Board members in attendance at the meeting were Elliston; Antony Beck and Satish Sanan (Breeders’ Cup); Bell; Remi Bellocq (National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association); Robert Clay (The Jockey Club); Foreman; Charles Hayward (NYRA); Liebau; Marsha Naify (Thoroughbred Owners of California); and Nick Nicholson (Keeneland).