'Big Three,' Others to Renew NTRA Membership

The three major racetrack operators -- Churchill Downs Inc., Magna Entertainment Corp., and the New York Racing Association -- have confirmed along with other racing associations and horsemen's groups the renewal of their membership in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

The NTRA made the announcement after its board of directors meeting Sept. 29 at Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky. The NTRA is seeking five-year commitments for 2006-10.

The memberships are for five years, with an "out" after one year, said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry relations for the NTRA. Dues for the largest members (by pari-mutuel handle) will be capped at $800,000, he said.

"The financial impacts are minimal given elimination of the cooperative advertising program (after this year) has more membership money flowing into other programs," Chamblin said.

Other racetracks that announced membership extensions are Del Mar, Hollywood Park, and Bay Meadows, Keeneland, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority tracks (Meadowlands and Monmouth Park), Turfway, Emerald Downs, Oak Tree Racing Association, and Tampa Bay Downs.

Horsemen's groups that announced membership are the Delaware, Illinois, and New Jersey affiliates of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association; the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association; the Texas Horsemen's Partnership; and the Louisiana HBPA, which is a first-time member.

Previously, only Philadelphia Park and the Thoroughbred Owners of California had said they would join and rejoin, respectively, the NTRA for the next five years.

CDI, MEC, and NYRA account for much of the more than $13 million in membership dues projected for 2006.

"We appreciate the commitments by these racetrack and horsemen's organizations, which represent more than 80% of the national pari-mutuel handle," NTRA commissioner D.G. Van Clief Jr. said in a release. "We look forward to finalizing membership discussions with other industry organizations in the coming weeks. The industry has made great strides since the formation of the NTRA. However, important work remains that can only be accomplished by all segments of the industry working together."

Chamblin said the meeting was productive, and that in the last week or so, a number of commitments to the organization were made by members. He said the board tackled some issues "that will allow us to move forward with remaining organizations that have not made commitments."

There are about 20 current members that haven't renewed, Chamblin said. The NTRA hopes to get them on board in the next 30 to 45 days, but there is no deadline for membership, he said.

The NTRA also received a report from board member Bruce Garland on the proposed Office of Racing Integrity and asked a steering committee to prepare a preliminary business plan and model standards for electronic security, physical security, and licensing. Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the THA, and representatives from CDI and MEC have joined the committee that includes John Roark of the National HBPA, Ed Martin of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, Alan Marzelli of The Jockey Club, Chris Scherf of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, Drew Couto of TOC, and Charles Hayward of NYRA.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the NTRA board is set for Dec. 1, again at Turfway.