Tim Smith

Tim Smith

Skip Dickstein

Smith May Leave NTRA for Top NYRA Post

Tim Smith, the first and only full-time commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, may resign effective Sept. 1 and could be headed to the New York Racing Association to serve as president and chief executive officer.

NTRA and NYRA officials, in a July 18 statement, confirmed that Smith has discussed the position with the racing association. However, no final decision has been made by either party, the statement said.

"I am honored to be considered for the position of NYRA president and CEO," Smith said in the statement. "NYRA stands for the highest quality of racing in the world in the world's most important market. I am equally committed, however, to the NTRA and Breeders' Cup, so any decision will take more time and consultation with the relevant groups and representatives over the next several weeks."

Sources said Smith and others in the industry believe the future course of NYRA is of utmost importance to the national Thoroughbred racing scene. NYRA holds the franchise to operate racing at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga, where many of the sport's major races, including the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), are held. NYRA, whose current franchise is due to expire in 2007, is operating under a court-appointed monitor in the wake of an investigation and indictment last year.

Smith has guided the NTRA through tumultuous times since the league office officially opened in 1998, and some would argue the organization never has been stronger. Many of the racetracks that defected several years ago have returned to the fold, television coverage and ratings continue to increase, sponsorships and group purchasing continue to grow, and Thoroughbred racing has a solid presence in legislative circles in Washington, D.C.

Smith's contract had been extended for two years through 2005. He apparently was asked by top officials at NYRA to consider the move given the situation in New York. Many of the more pressing issues facing the NTRA -- consolidation of Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup rights and launch of the Thoroughbred Championship Tour, for instance -- are closely tied to New York racing.

Terry Meyocks, who headed NYRA before the investigation, now works for the NTRA as a special assistant to Smith.

In past interviews with The Blood-Horse, Smith has noted the difficulties in bringing together an industry with many factions. But he also indicated he loved the challenge, and the top position at NYRA would be another one given the current circumstances in New York.

The NTRA is in the process of setting its course for 2006-2010. Many memberships expire at the end of 2005, but the organization hopes to have long-term plans in place well before then. Given the time frame, a new commissioner would have ample opportunity to address the business plan.

Sources said Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief Jr., currently NTRA vice chairman, would serve as acting commissioner and chief executive officer should Smith resign and go to NYRA. (Van Clief headed the NTRA on an interim basis before Smith was hired.) Deputy commissioner Greg Avioli could be elevated to the position as president and chief operating officer. The NTRA would then seek an individual to serve as general counsel.