06/03/2010 11:00PM

'Free riders' concern to NTRA


The National Thoroughbred Racing Association is attempting to formulate a policy that would address concerns that non-members are benefiting from its efforts in the wake of several recent defections from the organization, according to NTRA officials.

The attempts have not yet succeeded in crafting any "repercussions or consequences" for withdrawing from the organization, according to Keith Chamblin, and any effort to devise a policy to punish "free riders" will almost certainly be complicated by the NTRA's lack of authority over industry participants. According to Chamblin, the NTRA is most concerned that racetracks and horsemen's groups are deriving benefits from the NTRA's federal lobbying efforts without contributing financially to the organization.

"We need to know how to address this free-rider issue, but we haven't reached any conclusions, and no decisions have been made about what actions can be taken," Chamblin said.

The issue was discussed at the association's board meeting on Thursday in New York, the first board meeting since Churchill Downs Inc. and Delaware Park withdrew their membership in the organization. Both organizations cited financial considerations in withdrawing support.

Bob Evans, the chief executive of Churchill, and Bill Fasy, the chief operating officer of Delaware Park, both held board seats at the NTRA. At the board meeting, Craig Fravel, the president of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, was appointed to fill Evans's seat for the next year, according to the NTRA. The association will hold elections within the next 30 days to fill Fasy's open seat, and also to fill a seat previously held by Jack Liebau, the president of Hollywood Park. Liebau's three-year term expired as of the meeting on Thursday.

Absent from the meeting on Thursday was Dennis Mills, the chief executive of MI Developments, the largest racetrack owner in the country and the successor to Magna Entertainment Corp, which was dissolved as a result of its bankruptcy.

Chamblin said that MI Developments has not specifically said whether it will remain in the NTRA, but that the association had been encouraged by the company's participation in the past in NTRA efforts, including several recent board meetings.

Mills said on Friday that he was in Europe for the past week, and that MI Developments has not made a decision yet on whether it will remain in the NTRA. "We'll make that decision by the end of June," Mills said.