NTRA UPDATED. G. Van Clief, Jr. - Vice Chairman, NTRA; President, Breeders' Cup Ltd.
Ogden Mills Phipps: D.G. Van Clief wears many hats in this industry…and he wears them all well. He has addressed this gathering on numerous occasions and on numerous topics. Today, he is going to update us on some of the NTRA's activities in recent months and then introduce two speakers who will tell us a little bit about the progress of the medication consortium and the NTRA PAC.
D. G. Van Clief, Jr.: Thank you, Dinny.
With the departure of Commissioner Tim Smith now imminent, the NTRA prepares to transition from Phase One, the "Smith Years," to Phase Two, for which planning is already underway. I seem to have worked myself backwards into the interim CEO role I occupied at this conference seven years ago, making it my duty this morning to deliver the NTRA update!
Trainer John Ward will also speak on the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. And NTRA PAC Board Chairman Bill Farish will follow with a discussion of the PAC and its role in the NTRA's legislative agenda.
In the tradition of this conference, I begin with a quick review of the positive headlines.
One-hundred-and-twenty-thousand fans saw Smarty Jones' Triple Crown bid at Belmont Park - almost double the number who watched Affirmed and Alydar. Handle for this year's VISA Triple Crown shattered all records, topping $340 million dollars for a 17 percent increase over 2003.
NBC's telecast of the Belmont Stakes was the highest-rated TV show of any kind for the week - as it was in 2003 - and the race portion of the show was second only to the Super Bowl for TV sports ratings this year.
The Belmont Special that led into the telecast was the highest-rated horseracing telecast ever on ESPN.
The trend for Triple Crown ratings continues to be positive, especially when measured against other sports such as hockey and auto racing.
This year, fans will also see more racing on TV. For example, the NTRA will televise 58 Grade One races on national network and cable TV - a 14 percent increase over last year and the most in the history of our sport.
Just yesterday [August 14, 2004], ABC returned to racing with a two-hour telecast featuring Brent Musberger and Jim McKay. The Travers Stakes will be the centerpiece of an upcoming ESPN "SportsCenter" from Saratoga, the network's first-ever horseracing show in High Definition TV.
Average ratings and viewership for our cable telecasts, such as "CITGO Racing to the Kentucky Derby," continue to improve. Overall ratings for the Kentucky Derby series are up 46 percent over the last three years.
In addition to our TV programming, we have developed a new series of Public Service Announcements -- Rediscover Horseracing -- that portray both racing's popular appeal and the economic impact of our unique agri-business.
Earlier this year we announced NTRA Super Saturdays - a series that includes 18 Grade One stakes, spread over five monthly two-hour shows. Every Super Saturday event carries an NTRA National Pick Four. If you don't believe that live TV can drive handle, just look at the numbers. Over the past three years, handle on NTRA national wagers has grown from less than a million to more than $2.5 million dollars.
Building fan interest is also the goal of the pending partnership between NTRA, Breeders' Cup and the Thoroughbred Championship Tour. The organizations reached an agreement in principle in June and their representatives are now meeting with racetrack managers and horsemen to discuss stakes scheduling and other issues. Plans call for five weekends of nationally televised races between the Belmont and Breeders' Cup, beginning next year.
The combination of NTRA and Breeders' Cup gives us a real-time example of how Thoroughbred organizations with similar goals can achieve synergies. Since our two entities joined forces in 2001, we've seen tremendous growth in associated marketing and sponsorship sales.
The Breeders' Cup now has five title sponsorships for its divisional races plus other marketing partnerships with brands like Guinness, VO5 and Federal Express. Total NTRA sponsorship revenue has grown to more than $13 million from a standing start just four years ago.
The driver for that success is the NTRA Group Purchasing program. NTRA sales of sponsor products have increased from $14 million to an estimated $30 million in just two years. Today we are proud to welcome Lexmark, one of the world's leading producers of printers, as our newest Group Purchasing partner.
None of this would be possible without the NTRA's progress toward growing the popularity of our sport. Fan interest in racing - as measured by the ESPN Sports Poll - has increased five consecutive years and is up 14 percent during that time period.
There's no doubt that Seabiscuit, Funny Cide, War Emblem and others were behind this growth. The NTRA certainly didn't invent those stars but it certainly did give them structured marketing, television and PR. That was especially true this year, when the connections of Smarty Jones relied on NTRA's media relations staff - who literally camped out at Philadelphia Park - to manage the Triple Crown media.
From the covers of Sports Illustrated - where no horse had been since 1983 - to ESPN Magazine and even a Washington beltway publication like the Congressional Quarterly, it's clear that racing gained a foothold in American popular culture this year.
I want to reflect for a moment on that C Q image.
It wasn't long ago that the racing industry was purely on the defensive in Washington and the American Horse Council was our sole advocate on Capitol Hill.
Today, with the NTRA's added resources, we are poised to achieve passage of legislation that will reduce the capital gains holding period for horses from two years to one. That same legislation includes a provision that will eliminate a 30 percent withholding tax on wagers by foreign bettors that will help open the $85 billion overseas market to U.S. simulcasting and commingled pools.
Next month, we also expect to introduce new legislation aimed at protecting our sport from off-shore wagering sites that take bets on our races but don't support our business. As Bill Farish will outline, we are making real progress building an industry presence in Washington.
As we've planned for more than a year, the 12 months ahead will be an active time to consolidate our structural and financial gains and make the NTRA stronger and more effective in the future.
At its meeting next month, the NTRA Board will continue this strategic planning, which will likely focus on legislation, rights aggregation, television, sponsorship, marketing and publicity, integration with the TCT's efforts, the building of major racing events, and integrity issues - at the very least.
We also have a number of important near-term goals to meet. Sponsor agreements worth more than $6 million are up for renewal. The Breeders' Cup television contract with NBC expires next year, recommendations from our wagering security task force require action, uniform medication policies are being refined and submitted to racing commissions across the country, and multiple Breeders' Cup host-site track contracts are in negotiation.
In closing, I would like to recognize the contributions made to the NTRA by its first Commissioner.
I have had the pleasure of working with Tim Smith for over six years, the last three literally "shoulder to shoulder." His commitment to success, his perseverance, intellect and vision have been essential elements in founding and developing the NTRA. The organization has demonstrated its worth - leveraging our sport's assets while protecting racing's integrity - an area vital to its future growth and well-being. Horseracing is in a stronger position today because of Tim's efforts.
I'll now turn the microphone over to John Ward, who needs no introduction in this room. He's a Kentucky Derby-winning trainer with Monarchos and a director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.