09/16/2010 11:42AM

Decline in number of foals reported

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Jockey Club has received live foal reports from North American breeders of 27,233 foals so far this year, a 14.2 percent decline compared with the number of live foal reports received by this time last year, the organization said on Thursday.

The number of live-foal reports dovetails with a foal-crop estimate released earlier this year by the Jockey Club. The estimate was for a 2010 foal crop of 30,000. Typically, by early September, the Jockey Club has received 90 percent of the live-foal reports it will receive for the entire crop.

Foal crops in North America have been contracting since a bubble in the bloodstock market burst at the onset of the recession in 2008. That year, the foal crop was 36,600, down 2 percent from 2007. In 2009, the foal crop was 34,000, down 7.1 percent. The Jockey Club has already estimated that the 2011 crop will be 27,000 foals, a further decline of 10 percent.

The Jockey Club said that it had received reports of mares bred for 49,404 mares in 2009 who were covered by 3,130 stallions, a 9 percent decline in the number of stallions who were reported to have covered at least one mare a year earlier.

Of the top 10 states by breeding activity, only one, Pennsylvania, has shown any gain in the number of live foal reports compared with last year. In Pennsylvania, where the number of live foal reports was up 22 percent, from 692 to 844, slot machines and casino games at racetracks contribute approximately $150 million annually in purse subsidies and breeders awards.

Kentucky continues to dominate the North American breeding industry, with live-foal reports from 12,931 foals, according to the Jockey Club, or 47.5 percent of the reports received so far. That number, however, is down 9.3 percent from last year, as breeders continue to struggle with the tight credit market and the dramatic fall-off in the value of horses sold at auction over the past two years. The number of mares bred in Kentucky in 2009 was down 11 percent from the number of mares bred in the state in 2008.

Second on the top-10 list was Florida, with live-foal reports for 2,097 foals, down 27.5 percent. California, third on the list, is represented by 1,891 live-foal reports this year, down 25.2 percent compared to last year.

Racetracks in North America are already struggling to fill races and maintain their current live racing schedules, and the decline in the foal crop is expected to exacerbate those problems over the next several years.