State Bread - By Dan Liebman

(Originally published in the April 10, 2010 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)   

There are two races in the condition book for Monmouth Park’s opening day, May 22, for maiden special weights, 3-year-olds and up. One is open company; the other restricted to horses bred in New Jersey. The purses are the same: $75,000. A race for state-bred non-winners of a race other than carries an $80,000 purse.

Much has been written about Monmouth’s gutsy move to offer $1 million a day during the upcoming meet that runs through Labor Day (Sept. 6). In particular, it is a boon for owners of New Jersey-breds, a big pie to be divided among not that many participants. There were 286 Thoroughbreds bred in New Jersey in 2008; 395 in 2007; 329 in 2006.

A former editor of this publication wrote many times about the proliferation and growth of state incentive funds. It was Kent Hollingsworth’s belief that these restrictive programs did nothing but promote mediocrity.

In a December 1980 column on the subject, Hollingsworth wrote: “…If the breeding stock in a state is upgraded, the state breeding industry can be improved. The thought here has always been, however, that to exclude a nice filly from a race she could win, solely because she was foaled out of state, will not improve Thoroughbred breeding anywhere; that to provide purse money to a lesser horse by excluding a possibly better horse from the race, solely along state lines, is contrary to the very essence of horse racing.”

That essence is that the best horse should win the best race and earn the most money. Not only money, but since the early 1970s, black-type and graded status. Only about 2.5% of foals go on to win a graded stakes, which signifies excellence in the Thoroughbred and has always been an important factor in assessing racing class in both stallions and broodmares.

Most tracks have had purse structures that reward the best horses, but in Monmouth’s case, the winner of an open race and the winner of a restricted race receive the same amount.

Indiana is currently debating the objective of its program and whether more money should be awarded to state-bred horses that win in open company, something that is done in some other jurisdictions.

The Indiana Horse Racing Commission supports increased rewards for Indiana-breds that win in open company; members of the Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association do not, arguing more money for state-bred races encourages more breeding in the state.

Information supplied by Equibase shows that 29 states in 2009 offered a percentage of purses for state-bred races, the notable exception being Kentucky. If the goal of state-bred programs has been to encourage more breeding within state borders, it has been an unequivocal success. If the goal has been to upgrade breeding stock within those states, then the debate rages on.

Indiana is certainly one of those states that pays a sizeable amount of its purse money to state-bred horses; of its $20.8 million in purses last year, $9.9 million, or 47.6%, was available for state-breds. Only one state had a larger percentage for state-breds, that being New Mexico, with almost $16.5 million of $31.4 million, or 52.5% available for horses bred there. Ranking third in that category was another state with slots that have enriched its state-bred program, Louisiana, which offered 41% of its purse money, $36.7 million of $89.5 million, to state-breds.

California has the largest purse structure in the country, by far, at $174.4 million. Of that amount, 6.8%, about $11.8 million, is for state-breds.

In addition to Kentucky, five states offered stakes purses of more than $10 million in 2009. Of those five, New York offers the highest percentage to state-breds, $6.3 million of $43.7 million, or 14.6%.

State breeding programs are big business, adding money to purses and in many cases paying breeder, stallion, and broodmare awards. But despite that, Hollingsworth probably had it right, that the best horse should always be able to compete anywhere and be rewarded for doing so.

9 Comments

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Trainer, owner, breeder

The incentive is also to promote jobs in the state. Farm workers, vets, blacksmiths, horse dentist, feed stores, etc.  In turn, it keeps the agriculture land out of developement.  There is more than one angle to anything.  

07 Apr 2010 9:11 PM
marktoothaker

It was very interesting at the sales this year with there being a real edge for having a state bred horse if you were comparing apples to apples. Certainly the high end horses are still most all Ky breds but there did not seem to be any thumbing of peoples noses if you had a Oklahoma bred or Illinios bred like in days past. We even heard some people say why would anyone foal in Ky when you could go to PA or Louisiana. The state bred programs keep attracting mares daily from Kentucky and it is sad for everyone here in the bluegrass that board horses but until Ky gets their act together the best horse may be bred in a state other than Ky.

07 Apr 2010 10:14 PM
JAJ

Dan,

You completely missed the purpose of state bred incentives, which is to support the local agricultural industry.  That's everyone from the farm workers, the farmers who grow the feed, the vets and the guy who sells the latches for the farm gates.  It does not just support the winner of a race.

08 Apr 2010 2:16 PM
IndianaBreds

More economic activity for a state is always better than less unless you are the Indiana Horse Racing Commission. They should follow their own purpose in the Indiana Administrative Code rather than the opposite:

71 IAC 2-1-1 Purpose

Authority: IC 4-31-3-9

Affected: IC 4-31-3

Sec. 1. (a) The commission, created by IC 4-31-3, is charged with implementing, administering, and enforcing the Act. It is

the intent of the commission these rules be interpreted in the best interests of the public and the state of Indiana.

(b) Through these rules, the commission intends to encourage:

(1) agriculture;

(2) the horse breeding industry;

(3) the horse training industry;

(4) tourism; and

(5) employment opportunities;

in the state of Indiana related to horse racing ........

08 Apr 2010 7:05 PM
Rachel

I like the idea that an open race run in the home state has a bonus if the horse was also bred in that state, that keeps the horse, the stallion, the jobs in the state with an incentive to breed better.

Plus, keep a few races "restricted" to make everybody happy, but I'd "bonus up" the open races in the home state.

09 Apr 2010 7:03 AM
Eddie M

Dan,

Shame on you. You obviously didnt read my comments in Tom Lamarra's article. "I am not against supplements for Indiana Bred horses in open company, I encourage them"

- Eddie Martin Executive director, Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association

09 Apr 2010 8:41 PM
Let the middle class play

I disagree with your comments about statebreds.  Usually statebreds are more affordable for middle class people because regional stallion fees are cheaper. Why should thoroughbred racing be only for the rich?  If the industry wants to attract new participants, they should be encouraged to play at an affordable price.  Not everyone wants to be in a syndicate.  And most importantly, rewarding owners of state breds supports local farms and farm owners who love thoroughbreds.

11 Apr 2010 8:58 PM
al peterson

The most critical revenue for the Bloodhorse comes from Kentucky horse interests.  Of course Kentucky folks hate state incentive programs because their product is so often excluded.

Sorry Kentucky but when you start paying our feed bills we'll start eliminating state incentive programs.

20 Apr 2010 11:56 AM
louie

I agree that state breds need to compete on an open level, Breeders are the ones spending the money in state, but the carrot should be to breed a better horse, not a horse good enough to win in that state alone.  If I had my way, all the state bred rewards would by for breeding the best horse.... If that horse can only run 3rd in open company then so be it, but the carrot would be to invest that money to improve that horse so they are able to win someday

20 Apr 2010 12:53 PM

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