'Tour' Suspends Operations; to Look at Alternatives

The Thoroughbred Championship Tour, introduced in 2002 with a projected launch date of 2006, has been suspended because all of the parties needed to move it forward haven't committed to the project, organizers said.

The TCT issued a release July 15. Word that it probably wouldn't come to fruition circulated the week of July 11 while efforts were made to keep alive the project that called for creation of big-event racing days to bridge the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.

The original TCT plan called for racehorse owners to have equity in the series and commit start-up funds. Revenue would have come from a percentage of wagering on series events.

The series hinged on a tripartite agreement between the TCT, Breeders' Cup, and National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Breeders' Cup had committed to contribute $3 million a year in purse money for five years, but the NTRA said it had to wait until racetracks and horsemen's groups committed to the series. Only the New York Racing Association had done so as of July 15.

"There were many pieces of the puzzle that needed to fit," said TCT chief executive officer Dan Metzger, who also serves as president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

In the statement released July 15, TCT officials said: "The TCT believed that in order to succeed, it needed the support and cooperation of the tracks, horsemen's associations, Breeders' Cup, and NTRA. After years of intensive efforts to work with all parties, the TCT board (of directors) has not received complete cooperation and support and is not prepared to invest $25 million into a venture without it.

"The TCT board deeply thanks the Breeders' Cup board of directors and the New York Racing Association for their support and desired involvement in the TCT, but must suspend the operations of the TCT. The owners who have been supportive of the TCT will consider alternative opportunities. The TCT board also encourages Breeders' Cup to develop a tour modeled after the TCT with increased purses and awards, as well as a structure that places an emphasis on product-enhancement and increasing the fan base for Thoroughbred racing."

The TCT said leading Thoroughbred owners "invested considerable time and capital over the past several years." The TCT said a "broad base" of owners was prepared to invest the minimum of $25 million required to start the series, though it never was revealed how much had been raised the past few years.

The TCT said the investment was designed to provide the World Thoroughbred Championships with "increased fan awareness and interest and the NTRA, a potential marketing-services provider to the TCT, with a product it could market to maximize media attention and sponsorship opportunities."

The NTRA would have handled television and sponsorship matters for the TCT, and apparently had blocked out television time in 2006. But without contracts from the tracks in hand, the NTRA said it couldn't proceed.

The TCT would have relied primarily on major stakes in New York and California, where it was unable to garner enough support from the tracks and horsemen.