TOC Renews NTRA Membership for Five Years

The Thoroughbred Owners of California has renewed its membership in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association for the next five years in a move one NTRA official said bodes well for the overall membership renewal process.

The TOC, which negotiates purse contracts for California racetracks, markets horse racing, and attempts to improve the economics for owners, has paid in excess of $1 million a year in NTRA dues since it first joined in 1998. The TOC has signed on for 2006-10.

"It's a very positive signal," said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry development for the NTRA. "The TOC is one of the largest ownership groups, if not the largest, in the country. It bodes well for our membership renewal efforts going forward. We'd like to tip our hat to TOC leadership for being the first association to extend its membership."

"TOC believes that the NTRA--as a national office representing all facets of our industry--is very well positioned and equipped to deal with the challenges racing will face in the coming years," TOC director Mace Siegel, the current representative on the NTRA board of directors, said in a statement.

"Our industry is capable of so much more when it works together," TOC president Drew Couto said in a statement. "TOC is proud to be one of the first to confirm our commitment to working with our colleagues around the country for the betterment of all in racing. We hope that other industry organizations will soon demonstrate a similar commitment to the future."

NTRA commissioner D.G. Van Clief Jr. called the TOC "a crucial cornerstone" for the organization.

The NTRA is currently lobbying members to renew for the next five years. Two major racing companies--Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp.--haven't yet renewed their memberships. The companies combined operate about 20 tracks and provide millions of dollars in membership dues.

"We're having ongoing discussions with both organizations," Chamblin said.

Another key NTRA member, the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, also hasn't yet renewed. The organization has expressed its displeasure with the NTRA for its involvement in a push for uniform medication rules that ultimately led to a change in the Kentucky race-day medication policy.

"We're having positive discussions," Chamblin said. "We've identified some of the issues (the Kentucky HBPA) would like for us to explain and respond to, and we plan on doing that probably within the next 72 hours. We don't believe there are any issues with really any of our member associations that are insurmountable."

Because the NTRA cooperative advertising plan will be discontinued at the end of 2005, membership dues have been cut by 25% across the board.

The TOC was founded in 1993 and officially recognized a year later by the state to represent owners. The organization handles purse contracts, simulcast agreements, and legislative initiatives.