By Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the NTRA
This entry is Part II of my focus on a recent query from one of my readers asking me to explain to those "on the horse side" of the business, "What is the role of NTRA - what can NTRA realistically accomplish week to week?" I usually try to avoid using this space solely to promote the NTRA, but it is a fact that the NTRA's areas of focus are so diverse that it's hard for people "on the horse side" to see the full spectrum of what we do.
One area where our efforts are particularly valuable to horse people is our charitable activities through NTRA Charities. NTRA Charities is a 501(c) (3) organization founded in 1999 to promote and support national charitable organizations with a significant presence in Thoroughbred communities as well as charities within the Thoroughbred industry. Over the last decade, it has distributed millions of dollars to support organizations and causes that have included Ronald McDonald House Charities, families of victims of 9/11 and literally dozens of industry-related charitable endeavors.
Beginning with a gift by Thoroughbred Charities of America, NTRA Charities has become a national charity for racing. It helps individuals in the communities that are home to racing and serves as a rallying point for our industry by helping build awareness of our sport's charitable giving.
In 2001, the NTRA Charities - New York Heroes Fund, Breeders' Cup Limited, and the New York Racing Association jointly raised nearly $5 million for families affected by 9/11. Funds from the Heroes Fund supported aid for families of the Twin Towers first-responders and many other programs. No other sport came close to matching racing's contributions.
While the Heroes Fund didn't directly benefit horsemen, it did send the clear message that racing's people are compassionate and generous. It also demonstrated the importance of having a national charity like NTRA Charities - one that could appeal to racing's global audience of industry participants and fans.
So when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, NTRA Charities formed the NTRA Charities - Racing to the Rescue Fund to aid affected horsemen. Again, our members and racing fans responded, hosting charity events at racetracks and joining to help their fellow horse people.
A few years ago, when more than 50 permanently disabled jockeys were suddenly in danger of losing their much needed financial assistance, NTRA Charities stepped in to oversee the NTRA Charities - Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund to raise and disburse funds and serve as a trusted partner to the horsemen, racetracks and fellow jockeys who responded to the riders' plight. Today, thanks in part to NTRA Charities, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund is a successful, stand-alone charity with its own Board of Directors.
Just days after I joined the NTRA and just hours after Barbaro's death from laminitis in 2007, NTRA Charities created the NTRA Charities - Barbaro Memorial Fund. The Barbaro Memorial Fund has distributed some $400,000 to fund important laminitis research projects - projects that may well have gone unfunded or underfunded but for our efforts. Horse people can surely understand the benefit of that research.
Most recently, the NTRA announced the formation of the Barbaro Fund for Equine Health and Safety Research which will replace the NTRA Charities - Barbaro Memorial Fund. This new fund will become the primary fundraising arm of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance for equine health and safety research.
And then there is the issue of aftercare for our equine athletes. The NTRA has made equine retirement one of the pillars of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. We think it's essential that all segments of the Thoroughbred industry work together to address equine retirement as part of the life cycle of the horse and our daily business as horse people. NTRA Charities will most assuredly play a key role in this aspect of Alliance activities.
There is so much we do for horse people - addressing racing's safety and integrity challenges (next week) and improving racing's economics through better marketing and promotions (week after that). But NTRA Charities is a key part of our strategy to solidify racing's position as a major sport-and one with a big heart for its participants, both equine and human.
What else should NTRA Charities be doing? How best can it serve the industry's interests?