By Frank Mitchell
The result of Sunday's Fanfreluche Stakes at Woodbine in Canada was noteworthy for the owner, trainer, and jockey. The winner was Inglorious, who was anything but in beginning her career with a victory in the stakes.
The daughter of juvenile star Hennessy was bred in Ontario by Arosa Farms, is raced by Donver Stable, and is trained by Josie Carroll. The bay filly won the six-furlong stakes by a length and three-quarters, and she earned $87,624 from her first career start.
Out of the stakes-winning Smart Strike mare Noble Strike, Inglorious is the fourth foal of her dam from five to date and is the second stakes performer. The mare's first foal, the Cherokee Run colt Sebastian's Song, ran third in the Plate Trial at Woodbine.
That is a good produce record, but it is sobering for Kentucky breeders to consider that none of the all-Kentucky sires of the mare's first five foals are now standing in Kentucky. Three of them (Saint Liam, Hennessy, and Dixie Union) are dead. Cherokee Run is pensioned, and Tactical Cat is at stud in Oklahoma.
The stallion population in Kentucky is contracting seriously, and since stallion operations are the most consistent cash-generating segment of the horse business, that is bad news for breeding, sales, and the state government, which depends upon the economic vitality of breeding and racing for layers and layers of tax income.
As the volume of stallions declines, the sales of seasons to stallions must do likewise, the number of mares in the state has declined, the number of foals on farms being cared for and prepped for sales has declined, and the jobs, earnings, taxes, and the vast array of connected services also has shrunk.
This is very bad news for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the politicians and public servants who try to maintain the infrastructure and provide services to citizens. They will not be getting as much money from the breeding business, and they will not be able to use it for the benefit of Kentucky's maintenance and public works.
The shrinking of the Kentucky stallion population is closely connected with the enrichment of other state's breeding programs for Thoroughbreds, which have been augmented with funds from expanded gaming through riverboats, casinos, and slots parlors.
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The competing states have vastly enriched the purses at their racetracks, which makes owning a racehorse a more profitable game. It also makes breeding a Thoroughbred in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, or New York a much more attractive option than shipping to Kentucky to breed and raise a foal.
Whether this shift in funding purses is beneficial or not seems unimportant to a small but powerful segment of Kentucky politics, which has managed to prevent Kentucky from competing with other states in this regard. Kentucky Republican pols, led by the infamous David “Blackjack” Williams, have blocked passage of legislation for expanded gaming in Kentucky.
The political gamesmanship of Williams and his allies may or may not be contrary to the long-term best interests of breeding Thoroughbreds in Kentucky.
Their prescription could be seen as an economic parallel to taking an exceptionally large dose of a purgative. The cleansing might just kill you (or the business). If it doesn't, then the survivors should be somewhat better off at some point in the future.
The ongoing yearling sale at Fasig-Tipton's paddocks on Newtown Pike outside Lexington is a case in point. With more horses being sold, both the gross and the average prices have risen, but the median has dropped from the results of the first session.
But economically, the results are an exercise in loss reduction. Breeders are taking a severe beating of the ego and the wallet, and the obvious question is: “How many of them are going to try this fun again?”
The Jockey Club has predicted a notably smaller foal crop for next year, which is in line with the reduction of stallions and mares in Kentucky.
From the statistics that I've worked with over the current yearling sales season, there is a market for about 3,000 commercial sales yearlings, about half of what is currently available as the supply.
With the help of the economy and imprudent political game-playing, we might just reach that number sooner than you expect.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is a private consultant to breeders on pedigrees, matings, and conformation. He is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
Copyright © 2010, Frank Mitchell
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