NTRA Budget Approved; Houston to Host 'Challenge'

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association board of directors approved a $60-million operating budget for 2002, and officially chose Sam Houston Race Park in Texas to serve as host site of the first Great State Challenge late next year.

Representatives of state breeders' associations met Wednesday during the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing to hash out details of the Great State Challenge, which will be held in December (a date will be chosen later this month). Officials wouldn't discuss the details, but they said Fair Grounds in Louisiana and Hollywood Park in California are in the running for subsequent editions of the event.

The six-race series will be worth $1.5 million. Each of the $150,000-guranteed races will carry an "NTRA Great State Challenge" prefix. They are the Juvenile Fillies for 2-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, the Juvenile for 2-year-olds at seven furlongs, the Sprint for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs, the Turf for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, the Distaff for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, at 1 1/16 miles, and the Classic for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles.

The $150, 000 purses will come from the NTRA and Breeders' Cup, which will add $50,000 per race for Breeders' Cup-nominated horses. An additional $50,000 per race will come from each state's breeders' fund to be paid to state-bred horses that finish "in an awarded position."

The races will be limited to jurisdictions in which the official state horsemen's association is an NTRA member. The top eight states based on dues -- California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Texas -- are guaranteed one horse in each race.

The NTRA board also approved the formation of two additional committees: a sponsorship/television committee whose members are Joe De Francis of the Maryland Jockey Club, Craig Fravel of Del Mar, Bryan Krantz of Fair Grounds, and Terry Meyocks of the New York Racing Association; and a political action advisory committee whose members are John Van de Kamp of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, Jim McAlpine of Magna Entertainment, Nick Nicholson of Keeneland, and Bill Walmsley of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

The board approved marketing programs for 2002, including a one-time $1.5-million economic stimulus program for participating NTRA racetracks. On Dec. 14, the board will meet via conference call to review and approve its revised business plan for 2001-2005.