03/05/2004 1:00AM

NTRA creates panel to study purse declines


The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has formed a task force to examine causes for a puzzling decline in purses last year, which came in the face of increases in handle and other indicators measuring horse racing's popularity.

The task force, which will meet for the first time March 18-19 in New York, will examine the practice of rebating and its effect on payoffs, the growth of betting exchanges, signal piracy, and the continued migration of bettors from tracks to offtrack facilities, a release from the NTRA said.

The NTRA released a list of 24 members for the task force, and said it would be assisted by Giuliani Partners, the National Economic Research Associates, and the NTRA's anti-trust counsel. Giuliani Partners was hired by the NTRA to examine the industry's bet-processing network in the wake of the 2002 Breeders' Cup pick six scandal.

The NTRA also announced Friday that it had hired Terry Meyocks, the former chief operating officer of the New York Racing Association, as a special assistant to the commissioner. Meyocks will advise NTRA chief executive Tim Smith on "industry communications, horsemen's relations, optimum scheduling of major races for television and other special projects," the NTRA said.

Meyocks resigned from NYRA earlier this year after he was sharply criticized by federal and state prosecutors for failing to properly oversee the association's mutuel department. A total of 20 NYRA mutuel clerks have been convicted over the past three years for fraud and tax evasion.