NTRA Committee to Take Closer Look at 'Tour' Plan

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup have formed the framework to look at the Thoroughbred Championship Tour, a for-profit, televised racing series the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association hopes to launch.

The proposal, the groundwork for which was laid early in 2001, comes at a time when more Thoroughbred racing than ever is on television, and broadcasts have posted viewership gains of about 50%. The proposed "TCT," as it is being called by some in the industry, wouldn't compete with, but instead complement, existing coverage, organizers have said.

NTRA commissioner Tim Smith said the TCT was one of many topics discussed during the NTRA/Breeders' Cup two-day retreat in mid-February. He said the board of directors endorsed formation of a committee that would include racetrack operators, owners and breeders, and representatives of horsemen's groups.

"We've not yet finalized the make-up of the committee," Smith said. "It will be a pretty small but high-end group."

Though the NTRA/Breeders' Cup has yet to take an official position on the TCT, Smith said the concept "is an important topic -- what's the best way to create nationally televised racing linking the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup? We don't fully understand all the details, but we respect the owners' investment in the game. I'm in a recruiting mode to see if people will agree to serve on the committee."

John Roark, president of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and NTRA board member, said the TCT "was one of about 100 things discussed" during the two-day brainstorming session he called very productive. Roark said the proposed racing series was discussed in conjunction with TOBA's plan.

Darby Dan Farm's John Phillips and Thoroughbred owner Robert McNair are among those working on the project for TOBA. Others involved in the process are owners John Amerman, John Ed Anthony, William Condren, Donald Dizney, Steven Duncker, Eugene Melnyk, Kenny Troutt, Tom VanMeter, and TOBA president Dan Metzger.

Dr. Richard Thalheimer, an economist, was hired to help put together the business plan. That project is still in the works.