NTRA to Conduct Further Consumer Research

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association Friday announced plans to launch new consumer research to measure attitudes toward horseracing, with a goal of identifying the most effective advertising message that will help turn casual fans into more frequent racegoers.

At the fourth annual Western Conference on Racing held at Santa Anita Park, Greg Schneiders of SWR Research, a Washington-based firm whose clients include NASCAR, the PGA tour and Major League Baseball, outlined the work that he will be doing for the NTRA in the near future. SWR Research will augment the work currently being done by ESPN Sports Poll as well as previous market research, including focus groups, conducted in the NTRA's infancy. A research audit and telephone survey of approximately 75 questions will be conducted this month, to be followed by several focus groups in major markets. Additional research will be conducted concerning account wagering in California, which is set to begin on New Year's Day. Also, SWR will utilize an on-line community for advertising research. "The next step is to go broader and deeper," Schneiders said.

Tim Smith, chairman of the NTRA, provided one piece of market research that he termed as "good news" to the audience, namely that "83% of infrequent fans described their last visit to the track favorably--they had a good time," Smith said.

Smith also announced plans for site and date selection for the proposed Great State Challenge, an event pitting the best horses from various racing states in a six-race program with at least $1.6 million in purses. Earlier this week, Smith said, the NTRA board established guidelines for any racetrack interested in hosting the inaugural Great State Challenge in 2002. The event will be held between mid-November and mid-December and not in conjunction with the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, Smith said, because it was felt the event would get greater publicity on its own. He said the NTRA board would like to make a decision on the site and time of the Great State Challenge at its December board meeting.

In other matters, Lonny Powell, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and a representative from the North American Pari-mutuel Regulators Association, will be added to the NTRA Drug Testing Task Force. The conference heard Jim Gallagher, the task force's executive director, outline the current initiative to improve equine drug testing through a quality assurance program.

California veterinarian and racing patriarch Dr. Jack Robbins, along with his wife Margaret and sons Jay, Tom, Don, and David, were presented with the NTRA's Commissioner's Cup in recognition of their contributions to the NTRA and Thoroughbred racing. Jay is the trainer of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Tiznow. Jack Robbins is president of the Oak Tree Racing Association.Previous Commissioner's Cup recipients are R.D. Hubbard, Ken Maddy, and Clement L. Hirsch.

In accepting the award for his family, Jack Robbins said, "All of us are dedicated to the protection of the integrity of our sport. One of the major things we have to face this year is this medication issue."