National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) President and Chief Executive Officer Alex Waldrop today announced that he will retire at the end of 2021 after 15 years at the helm of the organization. 

Waldrop has had a distinguished career in the horse racing industry, serving as President of Churchill Downs and later as Chair of the equine, gaming, and entertainment practice group at the Kentucky-based law firm Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, where he served as the NTRA’s general counsel before joining the organization full-time in his current role.

During Waldrop’s tenure at the NTRA, the association transitioned from a member dues-driven organization into a self-sustaining, program-driven operation with more than 90 percent of the entity’s revenues now derived from programs that support the industry. 

Under Waldrop’s leadership, the NTRA grew its footprint in Washington, D.C., solidifying its position as the industry’s leading voice and the entity that represents all segments of the Thoroughbred industry on Capitol Hill. As the trade association for the Thoroughbred industry, the NTRA has focused its lobbying on legislation having a direct and material impact on its members and their business activities as they relate to horse racing, breeding and pari-mutuel wagering. 

“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.” 

Throughout much of 2020, the NTRA worked to ensure that the industry was not left behind 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), which became law in December 2020.

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. Support of and by horseplayers led to one of the biggest highlights during Waldrop’s time at the NTRA when in 2017 the U.S. Treasury Department formally adopted modernized regulations regarding the withholding and reporting of winning pari-mutuel wagers. The new regulations were the culmination of nearly a decade of work on Capitol Hill by the NTRA, and overnight resulted in dramatically reduced reporting obligations for horseplayers and practically eliminated withholding on winning wagers, allowing horseplayers to retain more of their winnings and leading to higher pari-mutuel handle. 

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. 

In 2008, Waldrop and the NTRA led an industry-wide effort that resulted in the creation of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, an entirely new program and self-regulatory body that for more than a decade has identified and implemented national safety and integrity standards at many of the nation’s leading racetracks. Since its inception, the Alliance has helped spearhead reforms in the areas of improved medication and testing policies; guidelines for injury reporting and prevention; safety research; providing a safer racing environment; and post-racing care for retired race horses.  

During Waldrop’s tenure, the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship grew from an event offering just over $500,000 in prize money to one that now offers purses and awards totaling nearly $4 million.

The NTRA’s group purchasing arm, NTRA Advantage, realized unparalleled success during Waldrop’s tenure. Advantage surpassed $1 billion in sales to the equine industry in 2019 and has provided nearly $200 million in savings to industry participants. Longtime Advantage partner John Deere is among the industry’s longest-running sponsors through its support of Churchill Downs, the Breeders’ Cup and the Advantage program. 

Earlier in Waldrop’s career, as President of Churchill Downs racetrack, he led the effort to develop a master plan for renovation of the historic Churchill Downs, which led to a $126 million modernization of the facility and paved the way for future capital investments on the property that continue to this day.