NTRA Gives Mid-Atlantic Until March 31 to Rejoin

A "sufficient number" of the 12 Mid-Atlantic racetracks that left the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in late October must renew their memberships by March 31 in order to maintain representation on the NTRA board. That directive was approved Thursday during a teleconference of the NTRA board of directors.

On the racetrack side, the new 15-member NTRA board will have seven seats, three of which will go to Churchill Downs Inc., Magna Entertainment, and the New York Racing Association. The seats are for "multi-track members" that produce at least 15% of total pari-mutuel handle per year. The other four seats will go to representatives from tracks in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, South, and West.

If the Mid-Atlantic seat is vacated, it will revert to an at-large national racetrack seat. Officials in the region -- Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis and Penn National Gaming president Bill Bork -- couldn't be reached immediately for comment. Philadelphia Park chief executive officer Hal Handel hadn't been informed of the NTRA board's action, and therefore reserved comment.

During the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing, Mid-Atlantic officials indicated they would seek a March deadline.

NTRA commissioner Tim Smith couldn't be reached for comment on just what constitutes a "sufficient number" of tracks. Mid-Atlantic officials, who have formed a cooperative, have said they're either all in, or all out.

Only tracks that are members as of Monday, Feb. 5, can vote in elections that will take place that week. In the Midwest, Turfway Park (5), Keeneland (4), and the Sportsman's Park (4) hold the most votes. In the South, the three tracks with the most votes -- Fair Grounds, Louisiana Downs, and Oaklawn Park, each with 4 -- have defected, which leaves Lone Star Park (3) with the highest number of votes. In the West, Del Mar (6) and Oak Tree Racing Association (4) have the most votes.

The number of votes per track is based on a percentage of independent track dues. Of all four regions, the Mid-Atlantic by far pays the most -- 37.42% of track dues based on information released Thursday by the NTRA (excluding Churchill, Magna, and NYRA). The Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, has nine votes; the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, has eight votes; and Philadelphia Park has six votes.

The rest of the NTRA board will consist of chairman Tim Smith; Robert Clay, who represents the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association; Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association; Robert Lewis, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California; Ogden Mills Phipps of The Jockey Club; Bill Walmsley, spokesman for the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association; and two Breeders' Cup seats, which are to be filled by D.G. Van Clief Jr. and G. Watts Humphrey Jr.

In other business, the board decided to seek two-year membership agreements from participants rather than the one-year deals which it heralded last year. NTRA officials said the two-year pacts will be in line with the one it recently struck with Magna.