The NTRA in the Nation's Capitol
Tom Rooney
Tom Rooney, President and CEO, National Thoroughbred Racing Association

STUART S. JANNEY III: Now I would like to introduce Tom Rooney who just this year was named president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Welcome, Tom. I look forward to your presentation on the NTRA, and maybe a side of Washington that does not appear on the front pages every day.

TOM ROONEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of The Jockey Club, Jim Gagliano, for inviting me to speak here today. This is my first visit to Saratoga as the president and CEO of the NTRA.

For nearly 70 years this conference has convened annually to discuss issues facing the Thoroughbred industry. Because of this great history, I greatly appreciate being asked to participate today.

For those of you I havenít met, let me take a few minutes to tell you about myself. My family has been involved in Thoroughbred racing for long before I was born. You may know that my grandfather, Art Rooney, founded the Pittsburgh Steelers, but what you probably donít know is the story of how he came to own the team.

He was a great handicapper and spent his summers here at Saratoga, and one week he won so much money that he single-handedly shut down racing for the week. They literally ran out of money.

The New York police gave him a police escort back to the Pennsylvania border because he was driving home to Pittsburgh with so much cash in his car. When he got home that day he told my grandmother that they would never have to worry about money again.

And then he went on to start the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So itís thanks to this place, my grandfatherís handicapping ability, his love of horses and football, that my family has been so involved in sports.

Growing up, my family owned Liberty Bell Racetrack in Philadelphia, Green Mountain Racetrack in Vermont, Yonkers Raceway in New York, and I loved going to the track with my grandfather and with my dad. We also own a small breeding farm in Maryland called Shamrock where I now have several of my own horses. Itís no wonder Iíve always been passionate about horse racing in my personal life.

Earlier in my career my wife and I served in the United States Army. I then ran for congress and served for 10 years in the United States House of Representatives. Washington was a great chapter in our lives where I learned the ins and outs of how D.C. works, and I made a lot of lifelong friends.

After retiring from Congress, I moved back to Florida, but remained very active in the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and racing my own horses. When I heard about this job, it felt like the perfect opportunity to blend my professional experience in Washington with my personal passion for horse racing.

Iíve been hired by the NTRA to do one thing, and thatís to go to Washington to advocate on behalf of Thoroughbred breeding and racing. Since I was brought on at the start of the year, Iíve been working hard to do just that.

On June 1st the NTRA officially opened an office in Washington D.C. right on Capitol Hill. No coincidence, itís right next door to the Dubliner Irish Pub on the Senate side, so I look forward to meeting you all there. Since then, Iíve spent most of my time there meeting with my former colleagues and emphasizing the key issues facing our industry.

Washington, as you probably know, is a relationships town, and the fact is it matters who you know.

For 10 years I walked the halls of Congress and now my old friends continue to do the same. Iíve hired a few D.C.-based staff, and together we have been meeting with as many offices as possible to tell the story of Thoroughbred racing in D.C.

There are a few members of Congress who truly understand our industry. And while some get it, like Representative Tonko and Elise Stefanik who are from New York and have been to Saratoga this week, and people like Andy Barr and Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, and a handful of others.

My mission is to educate the others on the issues important to us in this room. Later today, youíll be hearing from Senator Schumer from New York who knows how important Thoroughbred racing is to this state.

The best time to meet with people in Washington with is when you donít need something, when you can bring them up to speed on something with no strings attached. That way when you inevitably do need something from them, youíve already laid the groundwork and can get real work done.

Weíre laying that groundwork right now. There are a lot of top priorities for us, but the two obviously at the forefront right now are the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act and taxes. The NTRA team is working vigorously to preserve and regain tax incentives that promote investment in Thoroughbred breeding and racing, including some incentives that are set to sunset or be phased out as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

The extension of both the three-year depreciation and continuation of 100% bonus depreciation will give horse owners maximum flexibility in how to write off the cost of their horse. Weíve seen how important that is at things like the sale this week.

HISA is the law of the land, passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, and is now in the implementation process. If horse racing is going to continue to be successful in future years, the public needs to be assured that things like racetrack safety, based in part on the NTRAís Racetrack Safety and Integrity Alliance, uniform standards for anti-doping and medication, and a high degree of integrity are our highest priorities.

HISA is working to do all these things and more, and it is important that we give Lisa Lazarus and her team the chance to be successful, because her success means the success of Thoroughbred racing as a whole and maintaining the sport for future generation.

I will say as an aside I started at the NTRA about the same time Lisa did at HISA, and I can tell that you Thoroughbred racing is lucky to have her on our team.

The NTRA has a long history of legislative success, and it has delivered value to the greater industry based on our efforts in Washington. The NTRA is fortunate to have passionate members that support our horse PAC. Through our PAC we can ensure congressional members who support our industry have the resources they need to face re-election.

With our enhanced advocacy efforts and PAC support, and by using my knowledge of Congress and the relationships with members, Iím confident that the NTRA will continue to legislatively help the industry. Our industry has faced challenges over the last several years, and Iím realistic enough to know that we may face similar challenges in the future.

The best way to handle such challenges is to be united as an industry, because together we can do far more than we will apart. I think everybody in this room knows that.

Iím excited to have the opportunity to lead the NTRA into this next chapter, and I look forward to working with all of you as we work to preserve this wonderful sport for future generations.

Thank you for having me here today. God bless. Keep the faith. Thank you.

STUART JANNEY III: Thank you, Tom. Every sport must have an effective presence in Washington. Horse racing may have started a little late, but we know how to come from behind.

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