TOBA Moves Forward With Task Force on Sales

The task force that will look into issues related to Thoroughbred sales will be inclusive, have 16 to 20 members, and could be in place by the end of August, officials with the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association said.

The task force stemmed from the formation of the Alliance for Industry Reform, an effort spearheaded by Satish Sanan of Padua Stables. TOBA, after discussions with Sanan, took the lead in putting together the task force.

TOBA chairman Gary Biszantz said the task force would not only include sale company officials but consignors, buyers, and agents. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and American Association of Equine Practitioners are involved as well.

The idea is to keep the size of task force workable so it can come to conclusions quickly. The very nature of the industry could be somewhat problematic as the issues are addressed, but Biszantz said the buyer must be the focus.

"There will be some criticism about conflicts of interest, but everybody has a conflict of interest in the industry," Biszantz said after the Aug. 13 TOBA membership meeting in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. "It's impossible to avoid. But everybody agrees (the issues must be addressed). It's just a question of how do you do it?

"I think if we can improve integrity for the buyer, there will be more of them (at auctions). If there is validity to what Satish Sanan is saying, there has to be some fear on the part of buyers."

Sanan has said he personally has experienced fraud in the auction business. He formed AIR to bring to light several issues tied to disclosure of practices and information. About 90 individuals signed an open letter that appeared in industry trade publications in July.

TOBA president Dan Metzger said the objective is to be open and candid. "I'm optimistic most of the concerns can be addressed in a fair and open manner," Metzger said.

In other business, TOBA is continuing negotiations on the Thoroughbred Championship Tour, an owner-driven series that ties major stakes between the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships to five big-event days. TOBA hopes to have the series in place for 2005.

Metzger, recently named chief executive officer of the TCT, said he met with racetrack officials the week of Aug. 9 to discuss scheduling of races, currently a pressing issue for the series. He also said the TCT "is close to finalizing" an agreement with Breeders' Cup concerning funding for purses.

Owners would have equity in the series and contribute $25 million in start-up funds. Breeders' Cup contributions over a period of years would make it a $40-million series.

"After we get through the next process with the racetracks and Breeders' Cup, we can work out some issues with owners," Metzger said. "It's a complex situation with a lot of moving parts. We have to make sure we find common ground that's acceptable to everyone in the industry."

TCT organizers hope to get key agreements in place by early fall. Television time for the five tour dates has all but been secured by the NTRA.

On the membership front, TOBA plans to introduce a health-benefits plan and bring back its four-times-a-year newsletter. Biszantz noted the light attendance at the Aug. 13 membership meeting -- held at 8 o'clock on a very rainy morning before the regular board meeting -- and said the organization intends to reach out to owners.

"We'll have a new recruitment policy for new members," Biszantz said. "Too many people just don't know about us that should be a part of it."