Robert Clay, Three Chimneys Farm owner who hosted Sunday meeting between NTRA-Magna officials.

Robert Clay, Three Chimneys Farm owner who hosted Sunday meeting between NTRA-Magna officials.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Resolution May Be Near in Magna-NTRA Conflict

A Sunday evening meeting between Magna chairman Frank Stronach and members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association board of directors was called "constructive" and could lead to a resolution within two weeks, officials said in a joint statement released Monday. Magna's seven racetracks were among the 22 that defected from the NTRA in late October.

The meeting, held at NTRA board member Robert Clay's Three Chimneys Farm near Lexington, was attended by Clay; NTRA commissioner Tim Smith; Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief Jr.; NTRA board members Alan Foreman, Tom Meeker, Ogden Phipps, and Bill Walsmley; and Stronach and Jim MacAlpine from Magna.

"There was give and take on a number of topics," the statement said. "We did not agree on every issue, but...the participants confirmed their strong mutual commitment to advancing the interests of horseracing. We are optimistic about the prospects of working together in the future with Magna's racetracks as members of the NTRA."

Given that statement, it seems possible there could be an announcement during Stronach's Jan. 14 forum at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. An agenda or format for the meeting hasn't been released, though Stronach, who will moderate the session, has invited anyone who would like to speak on industry- and NTRA-related issues.

During comments made Jan. 2 at a Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Manager's Club meeting, Breeders' Cup founder John Gaines said Stronach should set an example for the industry and stand for election to the NTRA board. He said the forum could prove counterproductive.

"What's wrong with talking?" Stronach said. "I think it will be very healthy. There are a number of people (at Magna) who love horse racing. We want to get completely away from anything adversarial and see if we can find better ways to improve the sport."

Gaines, who compared the Magna chairman to former independent presidential candidate Ross Perot, wasn't the only person in the industry to take Stronach to task. In an open letter that appeared on the back cover of the Jan. 7 edition of Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Owners of California founder Ed Friendly said "racing in California has gone from bad to worse" under Stronach's stewardship. He also said Stronach has an "egomaniacal attitude," and urged him to stop being a "one-man show."

In related news, the Breeders' Cup board of directors at a meeting Sunday approved an operating budget that included $2.5 million to cover a deficit. Van Clief said it is a common practice, and had nothing to do with the NTRA's finances.