Tim Smith:…I think the key lesson, what we've learned is that we have been at our best the last six years when we have worked together -- when this diverse, cantankerous, but highly intertwined business operated as, in Alan's term, a virtual enterprise -- when we allowed ourselves to engage in what Pete Roselle called "league think."
Now let's face it. At times we collaborated and acted as one because we had very little choice. The Breeders' Cup Pick Six incident in late 2002 produced negative headlines for weeks, and threatened our most basic relationships of trust - with government, legislators, regulators, and most of all customers.
But by the same token, it provided unparalleled unity and offered the national office a unique opportunity to lead and prove its value. All sectors of the game came together to back a combination of reforms to preserve and enhance wagering security. And those steps led to very important initiatives you heard about earlier - led by The Jockey Club, Magna, Churchill, NYRA and the NTRA to upgrade technology overall.
It was a similar crisis that led to improving our capabilities in Washington. Steps like the creation of the Congressional Horse Caucus grew directly out of threats to our most basic revenue streams when some in Congress and the Justice Department challenged interstate electronic wagering as criminal.
This pattern within the industry of progress through coalitions has not been unique to the NTRA. Ask yourself this question…What of consequence has been accomplished in recent years by a single organization?
Take Equibase - beginning in 1991, a partnership to protect and utilize our intellectual property. That is something that none, not one, of even the most powerful entities in the industry could have accomplished alone.
Our association could not have started NTRA Productions and produced the TV exposure increases without a multi-organization effort and substantial loans from The Jockey Club, Keeneland, Oak Tree and BCL [Breeders' Cup Ltd.].
We couldn't have grown national sponsorship sixfold over the last four years without the combination of Breeders' Cup and NTRA.
We couldn't have increased live TV coverage by more than 60 percent without marketing partners like Dodge, John Deere, Nextel, FedEx, NetJets, Bessemer Trust, and now Lexmark and Citgo. Those partnerships would not have been possible without the support of these marketing partners through NTRA Purchasing by hundreds of players within the industry, dozens of tracks and farms, and hundreds of horsemen.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is working. There are more opportunities ahead.
The fact is that we are highly interdependent. In many circumstances, we are one business. You heard in Bill Farish's report, there is strength in numbers and that is literally true. That simple thought, I would argue, is behind most of the recent progress in our game. Whether measured by TV ratings, public interest levels, new national sponsors, or the renewed vibrancy of the Thoroughbred sales marketplace...because even gifts from the marketing gods like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones require partners and teamwork and resources to realize their full advantage.
Let's be clear though. Recent progress does not equate to ultimate success or completion of the NTRA's mission. A better way to describe where we are today is that, with your help, the building blocks have been put in place to enable and empower a true league office for racing going forward. I think we are at the tipping point where the NTRA and Breeders' Cup can realize their full potential.
So, what will happen next? The answer is very similar to the circumstances of 1998 when the NTRA was started and, for that matter, 1984 with the launch of the Breeders' Cup. The answer is that it is up to the industry, meaning each one of us. Each of us needs to be part of this process of reaching the tipping point - not just by passively supporting the NTRA, but by truly recommitting to its central premise. And that central premise can be simply stated and not repeated enough:
The stronger the national office, the better off horseracing as a whole and each of its components will be.
I can think of few better people than our next speaker to talk about the importance of structure and league-think in the world of professional sports even where direct competitors are involved. Like horsemen, breeders, and racetrack operators, I can personally attest that the PGA TOUR is filled with strong personalities and fierce competitors. But the players and other leaders in golf have been uncommonly wise over the years. They realized in putting the PGA TOUR together that the key to greater prosperity was greater unity and cohesion. They realized that together they were many times stronger than apart - even in the case of golf's biggest superstars.
They did two other smart things. First, they hired Deane Beman, my ex-boss, to put the initial structure together, and then Tim Finchem to refine it and take it to the next level. To mention just a few of the benchmark numbers:
Hundreds of millions of dollars in purse money for their three tours;
A quarter of a billion dollars in TV and sponsorship revenue or about 10 times that of the entire sport of horseracing;
$80 million per year generated for local tournament charities; and
Under Tim's leadership, their balance sheet has grown to include more than $800 million in assets with less than $100 million in debt.
In many ways, the PGA TOUR is the envy of all other professional sports.
Let me tell you about Tim Finchem. He grew up in a military family, went to college on a debate scholarship, excelled at the University of Virginia Law School, shared with me a misspent youth in politics and became just the third commissioner of the PGA TOUR in 1984.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me just mention one other thing. I can feel it in my bones. This man is very close to becoming a Thoroughbred owner!
To share some of the lessons of the success of the PGA TOUR under his effective leadership, please welcome PGA TOUR commissioner, Tim Finchem.