The Proposal - By Evan Hammonds

The news cycle prior to the Keeneland September yearling sale was on full spin after Labor Day weekend. First up, following the disappointing news the weekend before that Churchill Downs Inc. was not interested in a casino license for Arlington International, it announced it was interested in building a new racetrack in northern Kentucky to install Instant Racing machines and take over Turfway Park’s winter dates. The following day The Jockey Club announced it will consider limiting stallions’ book size to 140 mares..

While the conversation is nothing new, it is news that this proposal has been floated by the breed’s registry arm. The move stems from a falling foal-crop number that hovers at slightly more than 20,000 and a growing number of stallions that cover 140-plus mares a season. Based on TJC figures, in 2007, 5,894 mares (9.5% of all mares bred) were bred by stallions that covered more than 140 mares. By 2019, 7,415 mares (27% of all mares bred) were covered by stallions with books of more than 140.

After the announcement we reached out to TJC president and COO James Gagliano with a few questions. Here is a brief recap:

BH: We’d like to confirm that the cap is mares bred, regardless of the number of foals those covers produce.

TJC: That is correct under the proposal released for comment.

BH: How will this be enforced? A stallion that covers 140 mares will likely get around 110 foals. So if a stallion covers more than 140 mares and some breeders with mares that don’t get in foal don’t turn in a report, couldn’t they beat the cap?

TJC: Rule 14 of the Principal Rules and Requirements of the American Stud Book requires that all stallion owners (or managers) must report each mare covered by a stallion during a calendar year to The Jockey Club. Based on the information on the completed Report of Mares Bred form, The Jockey Club will forward to the stallion owner (or manager) a preprinted Service Certificate for each broodmare bred. Under the proposed rule being considered, the maximum number of mares that can be reported bred and thus, the maximum number of Service Certificates issued, would not exceed 140.

BH: Along the same line, if a breeder turns out to have the 145th mare bred as documented by the farm and that breeding results in a foal, what happens to the foal. Could it be denied registration?

TJC: Because the proposed cap is based upon mares reported bred, not more than 140 mares could be reported to The Jockey Club as having been bred to a single stallion.

BH: How did The Jockey Club land on a cap of 140 mares?

TJC: To offer a proposal for comment, a number had to be included. The stewards considered historic stallion breeding practices, health concern for the stallions, and the stewards’ experience as owners and breeders. The stewards will consider comments on all aspects of the proposal, including this one.

BH: Are you concerned about challenges regarding restraint of trade?

TJC: The short answer is “no;” we are neither concerned about nor see any basis for such a challenge. This proposal is aimed at the welfare and integrity of the Thoroughbred breed, which has been TJC’s primary mission for 125 years. The diversity of the Thoroughbred gene pool is an important factor in the health and characteristics of succeeding generations of Thoroughbred horses, and that diversity has been declining at an accelerated rate. The purpose of the proposed rule is to preserve the Thoroughbred horse, without which there would be no Thoroughbred industry.

BH: Can you share any research done on the degree of inbreeding?

TJC: The stewards believe it is premature to consider releasing the research, but they may do so if they conclude it would materially benefit discussion of the proposed rule. However, some of the data include recent trends in large-book-size stallions that can be found online.

BH: How confident are you in the ability of TJC to implement these rules?

TJC: We know from long experience that the Registry is effective in implementing all the Principal Rules. We also have found Thoroughbred owners and breeders to be honest and interested in the breed’s welfare. We expect the proposed rule to be implemented effectively like the other Principal Rules.

BH:  Will this have a positive effect on the commercial markets, more specifically yearling sales?

TJC: We believe the proposed rule will benefit all aspects of the Thoroughbred industry although we are unable to predict future markets.

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