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The National Thoroughbred Racing Association is betting on a new sweepstakes to help build the sport's profile.

The NTRA will introduce a campaign this month for the annual Breeders' Cup racing championship. It will also boost ad spending to as much as $30 million next year, from $20 million this year.

The new effort will center on the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick Six sweepstakes. It will give bettors a chance at a $5 million jackpot if they pick the winners of six races.

Advertising from NTRA agency Merkley Newman Harty, New York, will air during the week before the Nov. 7 races, held this year at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.

The sweepstakes will help promote the races, while luring new spectators, said Rick Baedeker, NTRA senior VP-marketing.


"If it increases their interest in it this year, maybe we can make them fans," Mr. Baedeker said.

The NTRA recently expanded its marketing plans for 1999. The group will produce more TV spots next year and raise ad spending to as much as $30 million.

Merkley Newman is producing eight new spots, set to break in late December and early January. Radio and print executions support the campaign, which will retain the "Go baby, go" tagline.

The agency is in contract negotiations with a well-known comic actor to star in the spots, said Steve Bowen, Merkley Newman's director of business development. He would not identify the spokesman, but said the name will be announced in the next two weeks.

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