With a Saturday deadline to land a seat on the National Thoroughbred Thoroughbred Racing Association board of directors fast approaching, the Maryland Jockey Club has rejoined the NTRA. Its president, Joe De Francis, will take a seat on the NTRA board.
The only Mid-Atlantic racetracks that are members of the NTRA are Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, the two MJC tracks, and Mountaineer Park. An NTRA official said it's possible a few more of the Mid-Atlantic tracks that defected last October could rejoin. There is no deadline for renewal, but there was a deadline for retention of the Mid-Atlantic board seat.
De Francis has been a spokesman for the Mid-Atlantic region. For the MJC, there are national implications: Pimlico hosts the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), second leg of the Triple Crown, and Comcast, the cable television company that recently signed a deal with the TV Games Network, is big in Maryland, where account wagering is legal.
De Francis said late Friday afternoon the NTRA had made sufficient progress the last 14 months in regard to implementing reform. "In the final analysis, the likelihood of that progress continuing would be maximized by (the MJC) being a part of the organization," he said.
De Francis said the MJC tracks would remain part of the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative, which negotiates simulcasting rates and other deals for the region's member racetracks. He said he didn't know if any other tracks in the Mid-Atlantic planned to rejoin.
"Each person will do what's best for his own organization," De Francis said. "I remain committed to the agenda we've been advocating as a region."
The Mid-Atlantic tracks have taken issue with governance and the NTRA's involvement in projects that compete with its members.
Bill Bork, president of Penn National Gaming Inc., said early Friday afternoon he hadn't heard any of the Mid-Atlantic tracks planned to rejoin, including Laurel and Pimlico. Bork was an NTRA director through 2000, but left that post because the Mid-Atlantic tracks defected.
Bork has indicated the tracks in the region would stick together regarding NTRA membership. "We have no interest in rejoining," he said of Penn National Gaming, which owns and operates Penn National Race Course and Charles Town Races.
One official labeled the situation "really delicate." There has been talk from time to time that some of the Mid-Atlantic tracks would rejoin the NTRA, but on the other hand, they've remained committed to the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative.