New Team Horse Racing League Kicks Off In Kentucky This Fall

Written By Steve Schult on May 26, 2023
Kentucky national thoroughbred league

A new team-oriented horse racing league opens its inaugural season at a Kentucky horse track this September.

The National Thoroughbred League runs its first race at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 2.

Horse racing in Kentucky is a time-honored tradition. Thus, it’s no surprise an innovation in horse racing would start in the Bluegrass State.

NTL wants to bring the team aspect of sports to horse racing

Randall Lane and Bob Daugherty created the league. Lane is the chief content officer at Forbes, while Daugherty is an investor and educator.

According to a report from Thoroughbred Daily News, the two horse racing fans met two years ago to discuss why the sport wasn’t as popular as other American leagues.

They believed horse racing lacked the team dynamic of other sports.

“The idea is to take what works in pretty much every other sports,” Lane said in the report. “Why not take that and bring it to this great sport, horse racing? It is America’s original spectator sport. We’re going to create team affinities. There are Yankees fans, Cowboys fans. You love your team and you love the players, the new ones and the returning players. People love those team because they represent their cities. We want to do the same for horse racing.”

6 teams represent 6 cities

The league’s first season will feature six teams representing six different cities. New York, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Seattle, Nashville and Philadelphia will have teams in the league.

Teams will consist of six horses. The league owns these horses. However, teams will choose which horses they roster in a draft, similar to other major US sports.

These horses will only be allowed to race in NTL events.

The league scheduled five weekends’ worth of races. After its debut at Kentucky Downs, the league has scheduled races at Emerald Downs in Seattle, the Meadowlands in New Jersey and Los Alamitos Race Course in Southern California. The season culminates with a final race at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 31.

Teams will accumulate points based on finishes at each stop. The team with the most points at the end of the season will win $1 million.

Rappers Nelly and Rick Ross, NFL player Kayvon Thibodeux, NBA player Danny Green and retired NBA player Baron Davis are among some celebrities owning franchises.

The league hired Tom Ludt to be the President of Horse Operations. Previously, he was chairman of the Breeders’ Cup. His main responsibility is finding horses for the league.

“I’m going to try to buy 36 horses that would be in that high allowance, small stakes level,” Ludt told TDN. “We’re using tools and parameters, like Ragozin and Beyer numbers, to make sure the horses are evenly matched. We want to create competitive fields. We’ll try our best to make sure the horses are at the same level.”

Ludt has a controversial past

After his stint with the Breeders’ Cup, but before his hiring at the NTL, Ludt was hired in 2017 to head a group called Phoenix Thoroughbreds. The group is a subsidiary of the Phoenix Investment Fund. It bought and owned horses to race.

But allegations surfaced that the group was a money laundering scheme.

According to a report from the San Diego Union-Tribune, Mark Scott, the attorney for a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme called OneCoin, sent nearly $200 million from OneCoin to his own bank accounts in Ireland. Then, the money went to Phoenix Investment Fund.

Konstantin Ignatov took control of the OneCoin fortune after his sister Ruja disappeared with $4 billion of investor money. Ignatov faced federal money laundering and bank fraud charges. But he struck a deal with the feds and testified against Scott.

Ignatov told government agents the intended landing point for the OneCoin money was the Phoenix Investment fund. He also said that buying racehorses was part of the money laundering tactics used to clean OneCoin money.

Ludt quit shortly after these Ignatov made these allegations.

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Steve Schult

The Managing Editor of PlayKentucky, Steve Schult is a veteran of the gambling industry with more than a decade of experience covering the space. After earning his journalism degree from Marist College, the New York native began covering high-stakes poker tournaments and the U.S. gambling industry for various outlets. Following stints as a writer for Card Player Media, Bluff Magazine and the World Series of Poker, Schult joined Catena Media and has managed coverage for a handful of states.

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