Stronach keeps pressure upon NTRA

Dec 5, 2000 6:39 AM

When racing executives get together at the Racing Symposium sponsored by the University of Arizona Race Track Industry program, they talk.

And the conversations that develop could be vital to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), which has been charged with moving the industry forward in the 21st century.

But problems have developed. Followed by dissension. With threats added.

At the moment, the NTRA is faced with 22 defecting tracks, led by Frank Stronach and the seven tracks owned by Magna Entertainment Inc. (MEIC). Stronach controls two of the biggest winter racing signals in Santa Anita and Gulfstream. He has been critical for more than a year of the NTRA’s board makeup, suggesting members are designated, as through an "Old Boys" network, rather than elected.

Of the other dissidents, a dozen mid-Atlantic tracks seemed to be making progress in alleviating their concerns until the Breeders’ Cup committee said it had awarded its interactive wagering rights to TV Games Network. Its partnership with NTRA -- and subsequently the additional partnership of the Breeders’ Cup -- compounded the problem of tracks already in the interstate betting business.

The NTRA should not be in a competitive business with its member tracks, the mid-Atlantic tracks charged.

Stronach agreed. He even suggested he might develop a network of tracks that would expand the competition.

In a major ad campaign, Stronach suggested the NTRA board should consist of elected representatives from three groups: the breeders, the owners and the track. He added that a forum will be held Jan. 8 at Gulfstream, when everyone’s views could be aired.

The date follows by one month a meeting of the NTRA board, probably the last before the number of directors is expanded to 15 from the current 12.

Prior to both sessions, attendees representing both sides will have ample time during the three-day symposium to meet quietly to discuss areas where progress can be made.

That’s one of the advantages of attending this 27th annual symposium.