Van Clief Named NTRA Commissioner

Van Clief Named NTRA Commissioner
Photo: Skip Dickstein
NTRA commissioner D. G. Van Clief Jr.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which went outside the industry for its first commissioner, has decided to stay within the industry in keeping its second.

D.G. Van Clief Jr., who was named commissioner following the resignation of Tim Smith last July, will remain in the position. The announcement was made Tuesday following Van Clief's unanimous selection during an NTRA board meeting held Monday.

Van Clief served while a search committee looked at other candidates for the commissioner's job. The NTRA release announcing the news did not state if other candidates were identified or interviewed for the position, but an official with the organization indicated officials with other sports were interviewed. Executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates conducted the search on behalf of the NTRA. Van Clief's initial term will extend through the end of 2007.

"The NTRA board feels strongly that D.G. Van Clief possesses the right mix of experience, character, and leadership to see that this organization meets its objectives and to guide our industry," said transition and search committee chairman Robert N. Clay. "D.G.'s appointment completes a comprehensive national review to both identify the best-qualified commissioner and to benchmark our current management team."

Smith, an industry outsider, resigned as commissioner of the NTRA July 27. He is the now the head of Friends of New York Racing, which is developing a new model for racing in that state.

Smith had been the only full-time commissioner of the NTRA, which launched in the spring of 1998.

Following Smith's departure, Van Clief, president of Breeders' Cup and then also serving as NTRA vice chairman, was named commissioner and CEO of the NTRA.

(The NTRA and Breeders' Cup have operated under a joint operating agreement since Jan. 1, 2001.)

Just a few weeks after Smith's resignation, Van Clief indicated he was interested in continuing in the job of commissioner.

Van Clief has been with the Breeders' Cup since it was founded in 1982. He was executive director of Breeders' Cup until being named president of the organization in 1996.

He was founding chairman of the NTRA and served as its interim CEO prior to Smith's hiring.

Van Clief is also the board chairman of the auction company Fasig-Tipton. His family has been breeding and selling Thoroughbreds since the late 1920s.

His grandmother was the co-breeder of 1947 Kentucky Derby winner Jet Pilot, and his family owns and operated Nydrie Stud, for which Van Clief served as chief executive. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Van Clief served as an officer in the United States Navy, attached to the 2nd Marine Division from 1971-74. Van Clief returned to the Thoroughbred industry, working as an assistant general manager at Fasig-Tipton, to which he was elected board chairman in 1991. Van Clief also has served as an executive at Hollywood Park racetrack.

The NTRA board also approved the NTRA 2006 – 2010 Strategic Plan, and authorized the NTRA staff to immediately begin membership renewal discussions with racetrack and horsemen's organizations.

"The updated Strategic Plan confirms the organization's priorities for the next five years," said Van Clief. "It includes deliverable member benefits, clear benchmarks and metrics for measuring the effectiveness of the programs to be undertaken, and positions the industry well for the future. Given the number of favorable comments we've received over the past few weeks from industry leaders, we're hopeful that the membership renewal process can be completed by mid-summer."

Van Clief indicated that the updated Strategic Plan would be published and distributed to NTRA members in the coming weeks.

"The industry is at a critical juncture in that it faces both challenges and opportunities," Van Clief continued. "One of our jobs will be to try to sustain the positive momentum we've seen recently in areas that include fan interest, television viewership, sponsorship and legislative, among others, while positioning the NTRA as an increasingly stronger and more capable industry leader. I'm optimistic about the future of the industry and the NTRA, which I view as one and the same."

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