Advisory Committee Makes Recommendations to NTRA

An advisory committee to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association released a 15-page report Thursday that heralds support for a national office but recommends preparation of a business model and "bill of rights" to be ratified by the general membership.

The document, a draft of which was submitted to the NTRA board of directors in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Aug. 10, suggests adoption of a NASCAR-like business model to ensure support from the constituency. It says the NTRA should be charged with increasing the popularity of Thoroughbred racing and not attempt to enter "for profit" businesses to relieve members of dues obligations.

Joe De Francis, president of the Maryland Jockey Club and the spokesman for the advisory committee, said the general consensus of the group -- not all members agreed on every point -- is that changes are necessary for members to make multi-year financial commitments to the NTRA. Such commitments are expected to be an issue when the NTRA holds its first annual meeting Oct. 11-13 in Lexington.

Regarding the NTRA's proposed business relationship with IBM Global Services, the report says the project should be pursued but not finalized until a business model has been developed and ratified by the membership. A plan to purchase a totalizator company shouldn't be pursued during the "development period" of the project, the report says.

"I believe there is a pretty substantial amount of concern throughout the industry -- that extends beyond the Mid-Atlantic region -- that going to one national tote may not be a good idea," De Francis said. "It may be a great idea, but what's making people uncomfortable is you can't decide until all the elements are fleshed out."

The report also says the NTRA should be flexible; is in danger of losing a substantial portion of its membership despite the gains it has made; should lobby on the state level only if invited by racetracks and horsemen; and allow members a chance to comment during public comment periods at board meetings.

Along with De Francis, the committee members are bloodstock agent Rollin Baugh; Penn National Gaming president Bill Bork; William Carnevale, president of New York City Off-Track Betting Corp.; Rick Hiles, president of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association; Stuart Janney III, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association; Fair Grounds president Bryan Krantz; Carl Pascarella, president of Visa USA; Santa Anita Park president Lonny Powell; Delaware Park president William Rickman Jr.; Dennis Swanson, president of WNBC; and Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief Jr.

"If nothing else, the process is creating a much higher level of communication in the industry," Van Clief said. "I haven't been asked to sign the document, but if asked to sign it, I would say no as it stands today."

Said Chip Tuttle, vice president of communications for the NTRA: "We think (the report) is well-motivated, but we'll reserve comment on the context of it."