Report Critical of NTRA Called 'Minority Viewpoint'

Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief Jr. on Friday issued a statement from four members of an NTRA Independent Advisory Committee in opposition to that committee's draft memorandum made public one week earlier, saying the conclusions represented a "minority viewpoint." The committee's memorandum was critical of the NTRA, particularly in its affiliation with the TV Games Network and a proposed agreement with IBM Global Services that could include the purchase of a tote operation. It also suggested the NTRA should be a dues driven organization, develop a business model patterned after the successful NASCAR, and allow members more of a voice in major decisions currently left to the board of directors.

The committee chaired by Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis, was formed earlier this year after tracks in the Mid-Atlantic threatened to pull out of the NTRA but ultimately remained as members. The committee was viewed by skeptics as a platform for the Mid-Atlantic members and other NTRA critics to air their grievances.

Van Clief was joined in the opposition letter by fellow committee members Stuart Janney III, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Rick Hiles, national president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and Rollin Baugh, a director of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and a TOBA trustee.

The statement reads, in part: "In general, we believe the committee's draft memorandum represents a minority viewpoint, and that the conclusions and recommendations in it are fundamentally flawed as they were developed without the benefit of appropriate resources, knowledge, time, and research."

Specifically, the opposition letter said: 1) the committee "did not reach consensus on the conclusions and recommendations," and that the draft was issued without a committee vote; 2) "value judgments regarding the effectiveness of the NTRA initiatives were made without the benefit of any performance standards being applied"; 3) committee debate "moderated" the draft's editorial tone, but that it remains "overly negative"; 4) development of a business model should not be the "single, primary focus" of the NTRA; 5) implementation of a voting procedure for members is "essentially impractical, especially as they apply to the owner/breeder component which provides a substantial amount of membership dues"; 6) "we do not agree with the conclusion that NTRA should be solely dues-supported."

Van Clief said the statement was issued because press reports led to "confusion" over the committee. He specifically cited a Daily Racing Form editorial that Van Clief said made the committee look like "an NTRA sanctioned group."

De Francis admitted there was a great deal of "discussion, debate, and quite frankly, disagreement" during committee meetings, but said the draft did represent a majority of the committee members who participated in conference calls at the end of the process. The entire committee consisted of De Francis, Van Clief, Janney, Hiles, Baugh, Penn National president William Bork, New York City OTB president William Carnevale (which is no longer an NTRA member), Fair Grounds president Bryan Krantz, Visa president Carl Pascarella, Los Angeles Turf Club president Lonny Powell, Delaware Park president William Rickman Jr., and WNBC television president Dennis Swanson.