Tom Ludt Joins The TDN Writers' Room

Tom Ludt | Fasig-Tipton

Tom Ludt has worked for many organizations in the horse racing industry, but never one as ambitious and willing to think outside the box as the National Thoroughbred League (NTL). A group of investors who are planning to bring the team concept that is the backbone of the four major sports to racing has hired Ludt to be the league's president of horse operations. With the job, Ludt will be in charge of all things racing, including acquiring the horses that will make up the league. With the NTL set to launch at Kentucky Downs over the Labor Day weekend, it was a good time to have Ludt join our team on the TDN Writers' Room podcast sponsored by Keeneland. He was this week's Green Group Guest of the Week.

When the formation of the NTL was announced it was met with a lot of skepticism, especially on the snake pit that is social media. He said he knew that was coming, but said he wasn't prepared for the resistance he faced from within the industry.

“No one wanted to give me a straight answer,” he said when asked why there were tracks that wanted no part of the NTL. “I think it's all about the word change. This whole answer is an assumption because I've point blank asked why they didn't want to be involved and really didn't get a direct answer. We pay for the hospitality, we pay for the purses, and we bring people to the track. So I say this as the ex-president of Santa Anita, it's a brilliant idea, in my opinion. So the only thing I can tell you is I believe it's fear of change and fear that it's not going to work.”

Ludt wants people to understand that the NTL isn't just about horse racing. Its founders believe it can work because an NTL day at the track will be an event, with concerts, food festivals, wine tastings and the like, the type of things that attract younger crowds and people who don't necessarily follow the sport.

“I go to the racetrack, I get my form, I might have a drink, and I'm focused on betting multi-leg bets,” he said. “But that's not what this is about. This league is all about getting the neighbor that you've never got to go racing to go racing. This is getting them to come out and have a great time. So the idea behind this is how do we get people to come back out to the track like the good old days? You're not going to do it every weekend, and we know that. We're not trying to conquer the world, but we really need that activity back at the track. We're never going to lose our degenerate gamblers and the person that's always going to watch racing. We're trying to find that new audience and people have to understand that's not easy and it's not going to be the way some of us want it to be done.”

It will be Ludt who will select and purchase the 36 horses that will make up the league, with each team having a roster of six. He said it's still too early to start buying.

“I have a lot of bloodstock agents that have become my best friend again,” Ludt said. “I'm getting a lot of calls and we are scouting. But now the challenge for me at this point is our first race will be at Kentucky Downs, which is our Nashville team. The race is actually on Sept. 3rd. The rules of our league will be the horses once they're purchased only race in our league. So the long answer is I haven't bought any yet because we don't want to buy them and sit there and have to just train them for two months without the opportunity to race.

Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by Coolmore,  the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders1/ST Racing, WinStar Farm, Lane's End, and West Point Thoroughbreds, the team of Bill Finley, Randy Moss and T.D. Thornton reviewed last week's action on the track, including the impressive win by first-time starter and TDN Rising Star Muth (Good Magic) in a maiden race at Santa Anita, and an impressive win by up-and-comer Salute the Stars (Candy Ride {Arg}) in the Pegasus S. at Monmouth. There was a preview of the GIII Ohio Derby, which came up surprisingly strong, and a discussion of the demise of Arlington Park, where the demolition of the grandstand has begun.

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