John Gaines, prominent horse breeder, spoke Tuesday night to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club.

John Gaines, prominent horse breeder, spoke Tuesday night to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Gaines Calls For Stronach to Terminate or Delay Forum

Magna chairman Frank Stronach's Jan. 14 open forum to discuss the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's future "should be terminated or at least delayed" if Stronach isn't willing to establish a structure and set an agenda for the session, John Gaines told the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Manager's Club Tuesday night in Lexington.

Meanwhile, participation by NTRA officials may hinge on the results of a meeting with Stronach later this week in Lexington. Greg Avioli, the NTRA's deputy commissioner, said Tuesday night the organization had no plan of action for the open forum, scheduled for a Sunday morning at Magna's Gulfstream Park in South Florida.

Gaines, the Breeders' Cup founder who in comments at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing in December called on Stronach to be proactive and join the NTRA board of directors, said the open forum could compromise Stronach's credibility. On Tuesday, he again said Stronach should stand for election to the NTRA board.

"The Gulfstream summit is the wrong format at the wrong time for the wrong reasons," Gaines said.

Gaines proposed a forum planned jointly by Stronach and the NTRA. Stronach's proposal came about soon after 22 racetracks -- seven of them owned by Magna -- defected from the NTRA in late October.

An agenda or format for the meeting hasn't been released, though it is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. In a letter that appeared in trade publications, Stronach invited anyone who would like to speak on industry- and NTRA-related issues.

Officials with Mid-Atlantic tracks that have defected said they plan to attend, as do representatives of horsemen's associations. But it has been hard to gauge just how many NTRA supporters will show. During the NTRA's first annual membership meeting, which spanned two days in October at Keeneland, the turnout wasn't strong, especially among dues payers and other supporters.

Gaines, who compared Stronach to former independent presidential candidate Ross Perot, also said he believes Stronach seeks "accountability and full disclosure," and is right to ask the question of who was at the helm when racing lost its market share. But Gaines insisted the "Gulfstream Summit," as he called it, would cause "further polarization" without an agenda and code of conduct.

The KTFMC has drafted a letter to Stronach, who was a speaker at one of its meetings last fall. The club will ask him to reconsider and join the NTRA board of directors.
Club president Steve Johnson of Margaux Farm said the club's "mission isn't political...but it's also our position the industry is going through significant turmoil at present. If we sit by passively, things will pass us by."

(Transcript of Speech)