02/13/2002 12:00AM

Arkansas horsemen quit NTRA


The Arkansas Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents Arkansas trainers and owners, has withdrawn from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the sport's marketing organization, officials said Wednesday.

The decision to withdraw was made one year after Arkansas's only Thoroughbred racetrack, Oaklawn Park, dropped out of the NTRA. Because Oaklawn is not a member, the track does not use NTRA marketing materials or participate in NTRA programs.

"Oaklawn's not in, and it was hard to justify the expenditures without benefiting from the co-op advertising or any of the other programs," Bill Walmsley, the president of the Arkansas HBPA, said Wednesday. Walmsley, an Arkansas attorney, is a former board member of the NTRA.

This year, Walmsley said, the Arkansas HBPA would have paid approximately $177,000 in dues to the NTRA - money that would have come out of the purse account. The NTRA has an annual budget of $60 million.

The withdrawal will cost Arkansas-bred horses a chance to compete in the inaugural Great State Challenge, a one-day event created by the NTRA that is designed to pit horses bred in different states against each other. The rules of the event require that the state's horsemen's association be a member of the NTRA for horses to compete.

Walmsley said the Arkansas horsemen "may revisit the issue if and when Oaklawn decides to come back in." The horsemen voted to withdraw in January, Walmsley said.