05/10/2002 12:00AM

NTRA makes video game deal


The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has reached an agreement with video-game maker Sega to market an arcade-style game that simulates breeding, training, and racing Thoroughbred horses.

Promotions will include tournaments and demonstrations at racetracks and gaming arcades, the NTRA said. A test version of the game has already been offered at sites in Chicago and Baltimore, the NTRA said, and was well-received.

The game, which will be called "Derby Owners Club - World Edition," has proven wildly popular in Japan and Hong Kong, where 1,000 machines have been installed, Sega officials said. Last December at the University of Arizona racing conference, a test version of the North American game proved to be one of the most popular exhibits.

In the game, which can accommodate eight people at one time, players start by choosing a horse with individual attributes, naming it, and selecting one of many options to train it. The player then must race the horse to build up experience and strength. After the race, the player must decide what to feed the horse.

By picking the right options and mastering the training and racing techniques, the horse grows stronger and faster. After a minimum of 20 races, players can choose to retire the horse and breed them to other horses, and then race the foal.

Information about the horses is stored on small plastic cards that can be inserted in any game console in the country. Officials have said that some players in Japan bring Rolodexes full of cards to arcades.