01/16/2004 1:00AM

Awards system may expand with VLT funds


A new year means a new agenda for the board of directors at the New York Thoroughbred Breeders.

The NYTB held its first organizational meeting of 2004 on Jan. 5. Dennis Brida, the executive director for the organization, said several topics, which he called "visions for 2004," were explored at the meeting.

There was a general discussion regarding the ability of the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund to expand its award program when revenue from video lottery terminals starts coming in. The terminals are scheduled to be introduced at Finger Lakes next month, and at Aqueduct at an as-yet-undetermined time. By law, breeder, owner, and stallion award money is paid out based on a horse's performance at New York tracks.

"If the fund has the ability and desire to, it is considering seeking legislation to pay awards out of state and in Europe with additional money from VLT's," Brida said. "Of course, this discussion is in the very early stages and a law would need to be passed. It would be nice to do something like California does with breeder awards for graded stakes winners outside of California."

Brida said another topic of discussion concerned the building of a turf course at Finger Lakes. Brida said the breeders' group is looking into the concept of finding a sponsor to help with the cost of adding a turf course, which likely would lead to an increase in the horse population at the Farmington, N.Y., track.

Brida said there is another bonus to putting in a turf course at Finger Lakes. It would, he said, "free up the glut in the stall situation" at New York Racing Association tracks.

An important initiative taken by the development fund, according to Brida, is the new option on the 2004 foal registration forms for owners to nominate a horse to 2-year-old stakes at Finger Lakes. For $100, a foal can be registered as a New York-bred and be nominated to the New York Breeders Futurity, Aspirant, and Lady Fingers. The money generated from the registration fees will be earmarked for increasing the purses of those stakes.

In 2003, NYTB's membership reached a record 911 and the goal this year is to get to 1,000. To help in reaching that number, the organization decided against increasing membership fees for 2004. Joint membership is $175, and $125 for an individual.

The next board of directors meeting is scheduled for March 8 at the group's offices in Saratoga Springs.

Sackatoga tops owner awards

Sackatoga Stable, the partnership that campaigned last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Funny Cide, led owners in open company awards in 2003 with $30,960. Michael and Lyn Shanley, the owners of Whitmore's Conn, who won the Sword Dancer and Bowling Green, were second on the list with $29,000.

Funny Cide earned the bulk of Sackatoga's award money by finishing second in the Wood Memorial and third in the Belmont Stakes, his only two starts in New York last year.

Owner awards are earned in open company races in New York that have a claiming value of at least $30,000. Horses by New York sires are entitled to 20 percent of the purse for finishes in the top four, and horses sired by out-of-state sires, such as Funny Cide (by Distorted Humor) and Whitmore's Conn (Kris S.), are eligible for 10 percent. The cap per horse, per race is $20,000.

Roger Toffolon, who stands Sea Salute at Liberty Stud in Hudson, N.Y., was the leader in breeder awards for 2003 with earnings of $185,786. Stonewall Farm, owned by Barry K. Schwartz, was next with $141,480.

Breeders awards are based on 20 percent of the purse for first-, second-, third-, and fourth-place finishes in all races run in New York for horses by registered New York stallions. If the horse is by an out-of-state or non-registered stallion, the award is 10 percent. There is a $10,000 cap per horse, per race.

The late Dixie Brass led the stallion award category. His progeny earned $158,187 in stallion awards last year.