Fravel Takes Over as NTRA Chairman of the Board

In an ongoing restructuring of the jointly operated National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup, the NTRA said Del Mar vice president Craig Fravel has replaced NTRA commissioner D.G. Van Clief Jr. as chairman of the NTRA board of directors.

Van Clief will continue as commissioner and also as president of Breeders' Cup. When a new, streamlined Breeders' Cup board of directors took office earlier this year, members indicated structural and financial changes were necessary to move the two organizations forward.

NTRA bylaws call for election of a non-executive chairman of the board, though the commissioner has filled that spot since the NTRA was launched in 1997. Tim Smith held the post before Van Clief took over in 2004.

Breeders' Cup now has a similar structure in that even though Van Clief is president, Bill Farish is now Breeders' Cup chairman and runs the meetings. Similarly, Fravel will oversee the NTRA board while Van Clief serves in an executive capacity.

"The NTRA has taken the lead from the (new) Breeders' Cup structure, which is working well already," Van Clief said March 22. "It provides another two individuals to provide leadership and communications at the senior level. And that never has been more important than it is today."

Van Clief said the move also is important as the NTRA embarks on a "self evaluation," both structurally and financially.

"From a personal standpoint, occupying two chairmanships and two (chief executive officer roles) has been virtually impossible to do well," Van Clief said. "The burden of communications alone was enough. And from a corporate issues standpoint, having separate board chairmen provides clearer accountability and a degree of separation that helps us avoid potential conflicts of interest."

The decision to elect Fravel as chairman of the board apparently was made when the NTRA and Breeders' Cup boards held a joint meeting in South Florida March 1-2. Soon after that meeting, it was announced longtime Breeders' Cup chief financial officer Ferguson "Fergie" Taylor had retired.

After the new Breeders' Cup board was seated in early January, board member Satish Sanan said having one person serve as Breeders' Cup president and NTRA commissioner is problematic. He said one organization might have to "collapse into the other one to take out the dysfunctionality."

Fravel, who will remain in his post at Del Mar, said: "I'm deeply honored that the other members of the NTRA board of directors asked me to undertake this important role. There are a number of important issues confronting the industry at this time, and a strong NTRA is essential to grow the sport and industry."