NTRA Awaits Commitments from Horsemen's Groups

As the National Thoroughbred Racing Association awaited word on a membership renewal from one its largest dues payers, the spokesman for the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said he has urged all affiliates to stick by the NTRA for at least another year.

On Tuesday afternoon, the board of directors of the Kentucky HBPA met to discuss 2001 membership in the NTRA. The organization, largest of the HBPA affiliates with about 6,000 members, pays about $750,000 a year in NTRA dues via purses based on a pari-mutuel handle formula.

At a meeting Dec. 18 with NTRA deputy commissioner Greg Avioli, the Kentucky HBPA had two major requests, according to executive director Marty Maline: that the NTRA not pursue changes to the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 without first asking horsemen, and that the NTRA assist in finding sponsors for the Kentucky Cup Day championship at Turfway Park.

Maline said horsemen give up about $500,000 in purse money to support the afternoon of stakes worth about $1 million. "Horsemen basically the sole sponsors (for Kentucky Cup purses)," he said. "The fact is the track is having a difficult time now maintaining a satisfactory purse structure."

Maline said the Kentucky HBPA has pursued sponsorship assistance given the fact the NTRA has said it would assist with the regional Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships, a series of stakes held at several racetracks.

Kentucky horsemen recently got about $750,000 -- about equal to its annual NTRA dues -- in source-market fees from the TV Games Network.

Meanwhile, National HBPA spokesman Bill Walmsley, an NTRA board member, said he sent a letter to NTRA-member affiliates urging them to renew for another year. Most of the 27 HBPA chapters are members.

Walmsley said the NTRA has developed a plan to offer benefits to horsemen's groups who remain members, but their partner racetracks do not. In late October, the NTRA lost 22 tracks, and as of Jan. 2, they hadn't rejoined.

Commitments from horsemen's groups are expected to trickle in. For example, the Arkansas HBPA board was expected to meet Jan. 6 to vote on its NTRA membership renewal. Its partner, Oaklawn Park, is one of the tracks that defected. By Tom LaMarra