06/05/2003 11:00PM

Great State Challenge still up in air

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The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, at a board meeting Thursday, postponed until the end of July a decision on whether to cancel this year's Great State Challenge, citing uncertainty over a sponsor for the event.

Tim Smith, the chief executive officer of the NTRA, said that discussions with sponsors are showing promise, but the NTRA has not yet signed any deal. If a sponsor is not signed, the Great State Challenge will almost certainly be put on a one-year hiatus, NTRA officials said.

The Challenge, held for the first time in December 2002, was designed to highlight individual state breeding programs in a series of six races.

Also at the meeting, the NTRA and a committee set up by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association discussed a TOBA plan entailing a contribution of $25 million from horse owners, designed to create additional televised races by remaking the schedule for stakes races in the summer and fall.