03/21/09 Southwest Regional: Early to Rise

  • March 19, 2009
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There once was a Louisiana breeder who purchased broodmares in the $7,500-$10,000 range. But last November he bought a mare for $65,000, and in January
he spent $85,000 for another.

Tom Early smiles when telling that story. And he should. That a breeder in the Bayou State would upgrade his stock so dramatically is a direct reflection of the measures Early has helped push through during his tenure as head of the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

“When I first came (to the LTBA), we didn’t own a magazine, there was no video poker, there were no slot machines, we didn’t own a sale company, and we paid breeders
awards to first place only,” Early said in an interview Mardi Gras weekend.

“What came with the slots was an effort by breeders to go out and buy better-quality stock. They realized with the big money coming they would have to increase the level of
their breeding stock. I used to say the catfish, the bottom feeders from Louisiana, showed up for the last three days of the Keeneland sale. Now they have moved up to the middle of the sale and have a real presence.”

They have that presence in part because of the hard work of Early, his staff and board members, the support of the state’s racetracks, and the relationship Early has built with Louisiana lawmakers. One of the keys to such success is that Early can relate; he understands what is happening locally, and the history behind it, because he is a local. A native of New Orleans, he began working on a horse farm while in his teens, and Early and his wife, Chrisie, live on a farm where they breed and raise Thoroughbreds.

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