Great State Challenge Could Return -- But Not This Year

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association board of directors has decided to scrap the Great State Challenge for this year given lack of sponsorship, but it hopes the event, inaugurated in 2002, will return next year.

During a teleconference meeting Aug. 1, the NTRA board also endorsed the recommendations of its Wagering Technology Working Group in regard to tote security and integrity. It approved a draft report--prepared in conjunction with Giuliani Partners--that will be discussed during the Aug. 17 Jockey Club Round Table in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The board had set a June 5 deadline for a decision on the Great State Challenge, designed to pit the top state-breds against each other in a year-end championship. It was held for the first time last year at Sam Houston Race Park, and most likely would return there if the board decides to move ahead with the program. The series of races was developed in part to appease horsemen and breed associations that support the NTRA financially.

The deadline for renewal was extended to the end of July because of "promising pending sponsorship discussions," NTRA commissioner Tim Smith said at the time. The NTRA has said sponsorships are necessary to bolster the concept, which breed association representatives have said needs some tweaking.

Earlier the week of June 28, an NTRA official indicated time had run out for renewal of the Great State Challenge for 2003. The NTRA and Breeders' Cup had hired an individual to look for sponsors for the event.

A major focus, Smith said, has been on obtaining sponsors that could also hook up with various state-bred championship days that tie into the Great State Challenge.

The NTRA board has scheduled its next regular meeting for Sept. 26 at Santa Anita Park.