National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) President and Chief Executive Officer Alex Waldrop will retire at the end of 2021. He has been at the forefront of the NTRA for 15 years.
During Waldrop's leadership, the NTRA transitioned from a member dues-driven organization into a self-sustaining, program-driven operation with more than 90% of the entity's revenues now derived from programs that support the industry. The organization also solidified its position as the industry's leading voice and the entity that represents all segments of the Thoroughbred industry in Washington, D.C., focusing its lobbying on legislation relating to horse racing, breeding and pari-mutuel wagering.
In addition, the NTRA under Waldrop worked to ensure that the industry was not left behind in 2020 as federal lawmakers crafted numerous important pieces of economic stimulus legislation tied to COVID-19 relief. Another major focus of the NTRA over the past two years was the ultimate passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA). The NTRA played a key role in bringing together various factions of the industry represented on the NTRA Board to find common ground in their support of HISA. In addition, the NTRA was crucial in the U.S. Treasury Department's formally adopted modernized regulations regarding the withholding and reporting of winning pari-mutuel wagers, which allowed horseplayers to retain more of their winnings and led to higher pari-mutuel handle.
“My decision to step down at the end of this year is driven by the knowledge that the NTRA is now financially strong and strategically well positioned to lead on key issues affecting Thoroughbred racing,” said Waldrop. “It's the right time for new leadership to take the reins and lead the organization in new and exciting directions. While I will truly miss my colleagues at the NTRA, I am certain they are prepared to meet the challenges ahead. I also have great confidence in the NTRA Board to lead the organization through this time of transition.”
Among Waldrop's other accomplishments during his tenure, he grew the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship from an event offering just over $500,000 in prize money to one that now offers purses and awards totaling nearly $4 million. In addition, the NTRA's group purchasing arm, NTRA Advantage, surpassed $1 billion in sales to the equine industry in 2019 and has provided nearly $200 million in savings to industry participants.
Waldrop has previously been president of Churchill Downs, where he led the effort to develop a master plan for renovation and modernization of the historic facility, and as chair of the equine, gaming, and entertainment practice group at the Kentucky-based law firm Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs. It was there that he served as the NTRA's general counsel before joining the organization full-time in his current role. Waldrop also serves as President of NTRA Horse PAC®, the Federal Political Action Committee of the NTRA that has raised more than $5 million through voluntary contributions to support political parties and candidates for elective office at the federal level.
“Alex was the right person at the time to lead the NTRA,” said Alan M. Foreman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (THA) and the NTRA's longest-serving director. “He stabilized the organization, refocused its mission and core functions and produced results that have and will continue to benefit our industry in the future. He led the organization's unparalleled achievements in Washington, from modernizing the law governing withholding of winnings to benefit our horseplayers, to tax reform for our breeders and owners, pandemic relief for all stakeholders and safety, health and welfare standards for our equine athletes. Most importantly, through his quiet but tireless leadership, he was able to bring consensus among competing industry stakeholders for the industry's best interests during challenging times. He deserves our gratitude and respect.”
The NTRA board of directors has begun a formal transition process and is conducting a search for Waldrop's successor.