02/17/2012 2:07PM

California stud farms make push for mares

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ARCADIA, Calif. – The California breeding market continues to favor mare owners, who have an increasing list of bargains available among potential stallions, according to the managers of two prominent farms.

With breeding season starting this week, farm managers are actively pursuing mares to book to their stallions, hoping that hints of growth in the economy and more racing incentives for California-breds will lead to more activity for breeding farms.

In recent years, mare owners in the state have been able to wait until the breeding season starts, inspect the foals their mares produce, and then chose a stallion, if the mare was even to be bred. There is a sense of optimism that there will be more activity this year, although farm personnel would appreciate if that would start sooner than later.

Stallion prices, already low to begin with, are being cut further, in an effort to secure business, according to Tom Hudson of Magali Farms and Mike Allen of Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. Both farms are in Santa Ynez in central California.

“We all need those mares,” Allen said.

Hudson has discounted three of the 11 stallions that stand at his farm for matings through March 15. The stud fees for Good Journey ($2,500) and Decarchy ($2,000) were cut in half, while Ten Most Wanted was reduced from $2,500 to $1,500.

“It’s got to be numbers now,” he said. “We’ve got to get [the foals] on the racetrack and collect the [stallion] awards.”

Allen said the Tommy Town operation has offered discounts of $1,000 per stud fee when multiple mares are booked, with further discounts to mare owners who ship horses from out of state.

Allen said that Kafwain, who finished the 2011 breeding season ranked fourth in the state in progeny earnings with $2,847,642, will be bred to more than 50 mares this year, while Aragorn, who finished 2011 ranked 10th, will get about 40 mares. Kafwain stands for $5,000, while Aragorn is priced at $4,000.

He was hoping for 20 to 30 more mares to each stallion this year.

“It’s not what we want,” he said.

Still, Allen says there are signs of growth.

“It does seem a little bit better,” he said. “We have more mares booked than last year at this time.”

Farms such as Magali and Tommy Town must have successful breeding seasons this year for the state’s foal crop to show growth. The 2011 crop was 1,891 foals, according to California Thoroughbred Breeders Association records, a decline of 6.8 percent from 2010. As recently as 2005, there were 3,707 live foals registered in the state.

The development of the Golden State Series of stakes, which heavily increased purses and racing opportunities for 2- and 3-year-olds in the state this year, and a bonus program that pays $20,000 to the owner of a California-bred that wins a maiden special weight race in Southern California ($10,000 in the north) are seen as ways to entice breeders to become active in the state.

The Magali team has a prominent new stallion in Giacomo, winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby. He stands for $5,000 and has 35 mares in his book, about 15 less than Hudson envisioned at this time of the breeding season. Last year Giacomo had progeny earnings of $1.45 million while standing in Kentucky.

“You’d think as well as he did last year on the track, he’d be a no-brainer at the price he’s at,” Hudson said. “My anticipation was probably higher than what the results are at this point.”

Lit de Justice pensioned from study duty

Lit de Justice, the Eclipse Award winner as the champion sprinter of 1996, has been pensioned from stud duty because of infertility, Hudson said.

“He’s willing to do the job,” Hudson said. “He’ll live out his years on the farm here.”

A 22-year-old by El Gran Senor, Lit de Justice won 10 of 36 starts and $1,397,649 racing in France and the United States. Trained by Jenine Sahadi in the United States, Lit de Justice won 4 of 7 starts in 1996, including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Woodbine and two other stakes in Southern California.

At stud, Lit de Justice began his career in Kentucky and moved to California for the 2003 breeding season. He had progeny earnings of more than $20.7 million. His leading earner has been the New York stakes winner No Parole, who earned $555,067.