'Tour' Moves Forward, Hires Metzger as CEO

The board of directors of the Thoroughbred Championship Tour, a proposed owner-driven series of races tied to big-event days, said July 24 it has hired Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Dan Metzger to serve as president and chief executive officer.

Metzger will continue in his role at TOBA, with a focus on the TCT. TOBA made plans for the TCT public in 2002.

"This is a very positive step forward for the TCT as we move ahead with our planning for the launch of the Tour in 2005," TCT chairman Robert McNair said in a prepared statement. "We appreciate TOBA's cooperation and support in allowing the TCT to hire Dan to lead our efforts."

"As chairman of TOBA, I couldn't be more supportive of Dan Metzger assuming this very important role for the TCT board," TOBA chairman Gary Biszantz said in a release. "Dan is energetic and positive about Thoroughbred racing and he knows how important the Tour can be in establishing a true major league of quality racing in America."

The announcement came at the end of week that featured a flurry of TCT activity. Sources had told The Blood-Horse the TCT plan, which calls for five major racing days between the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup, had been expanded to include major winter races in a fashion similar to the old American Championship Racing Series.

Barry Weisbord, the ACRS creator and participant in early TCT discussions, reportedly was back in the picture. He referred questions to TOBA vice chairman John Phillips, who indicated the original TCT business plan could be changed a bit given suggestions from various parties.

"The plan is basically the same," Phillips said a few days before the TCT announced the hiring of Metzger. "We've been tweaking it based on reaction we've gotten from people on how to improve it. It's a dynamic plan that's intended to have an impact on the industry, but it's an awfully broad picture.

"The basic goals and parameters will stay the same. The concept is good, but the methodology might be refined."

The July 24 TCT release made no mention of the series' schedule, other than to say it would end in October before the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.

Metzger had said he planned to meet July 23 with officials at Churchill Downs, apparently to discuss the TCT. He couldn't be reached for comment after that meeting, but in the release, he said: "It is an honor to be selected to work on behalf of the TCT and its founders. We look forward to working with the racetracks and the owners to create a world-class product that benefits the entire industry."

Breeders' Cup in June approved an agreement in principle with the TCT whereby it would contribute $18 million--$3 million a year for six years--to support the series. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which has worked with TCT organizers, will hear an update on the plan during its July 27 board of directors meeting.

The NTRA, led by commissioner Tim Smith, for some time has advocated aggregation of all rights--Breeders' Cup, Triple Crown, and just about any other series--to strengthen racing's position in terms of television exposure and sponsorship opportunities.

The original TCT business plan relies heavily on races from New York and California. Should Smith resign from the NTRA Sept. 1 to take a job as president of the New York Racing Association, he would play a role in TCT negotiations, but this time as a racetrack executive.

TCT investors would have equity in the series, which will rely on the cooperation of racetracks and horsemen's groups regarding stakes schedules, purses, and a revenue-through-handle formula. The races will be for the six older-horse divisions, with purses ranging from $500,000 to $1 million. Bonuses would be paid based on a points system.