10/18/2001 12:00AM

Fewer stallions and mares bred in '01


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Jockey Club reported Thursday that the number of stallions and mares bred in North America during the 2001 breeding season has declined, a factor that could translate into thinner auction catalogs in 2003, especially at middle- and lower-market sales.

With an estimated 85 to 90 percent of its annual Reports of Mares Bred returned to the registry as of Oct. 12, The Jockey Club announced that 3,457 stallions covered 58,298 mares this year, a 6 percent drop in active stallion population and a 3 percent decline in active mares from this time last year. The decline in mare population was the first drop since 1995 and suggests that, as the market for less expensive Thoroughbred yearlings shrinks, some breeders are taking lower-level horses out of production.

Stallion book size, meanwhile, continues to grow. The Jockey Club found that the number of stallions covering more than 100 mares dropped from 82 to 77 this year, but the most active stallions, headed by Thunder Gulch, were busier than ever.

Thunder Gulch, who stands at Coolmore Stud's Kentucky division, Ashford Stud, topped the list of active stallions with 216 mares covered in North America; that makes him the first Thoroughbred stallion to cover more than 200 mares in a single season.

Ashford stallions filled the top five spots on the most-active list. Honour and Glory ranked second with 192 mares, High Yield at 170, Louis Quatorze at 162, and Fusaichi Pegasus at 151. Rounding out the top 10 were Wheaton, who stood in 2001 at Sez Who Thoroughbreds in Florida, with 139 mares; Royal Anthem, who stood at Hopewell Farm in Kentucky, with 134; A.P. Jet at Sugar Maple Farm in New York with 133; Crafty Friend at Hopewell Farm with 132; and Maria's Mon at Pin Oak Stud in Kentucky with 129.

"Although stallion book size continues to increase, the fact that fewer mares were bred, coupled with the impact of mare reproductive loss syndrome in Kentucky, will weigh significantly on next year's foal crop, which we cautiously projected at 35,600 back in August," said Matt Iuliano, The Jockey Club's vice-president of registration services.

The 35,600 projection for 2002 is a 5 percent drop from the projected 2001 nationwide foal crop.

Sales companies already expected to have fewer yearlings to offer in 2003 as a result of MRLS, which caused abortions in an estimated 3,500 central Kentucky mares this spring. The decline in active stallions and mares may trim the crop further, especially for regional state-bred markets and, ultimately, smaller racing jurisdictions.

"We probably will see some evidence on a long-term basis of less breeding of horses to be sold at the bottom end of the market," said Boyd Browning, chief operating officer for Fasig-Tipton, which conducts sales around the country.

Canadian Breeders Sales no more . . .

The Canadian Breeders Sales company appears to be defunct as an auction house after ending its contract to conduct sales at Woodbine racetrack, home of its select September yearling sale.

Canadian Breeders Sales owner Michael Byrne, who also operates Park Stud, said that the 11-year-old sale company has no plans to conduct auctions in the foreseeable future after reaching what Woodbine Entertainment CEO David Willmot called a mutual agreement to end the contract.

Woodbine did not manage the auctions but rented space to Canadian Breeders Sales, which held three auctions there each year.

"We felt it was time to look at some other company to conduct the sale here," Willmot said.

Willmot said he had met with the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, which also conducts Thoroughbred auctions. Woodbine also has had discussions with representatives of Kentucky-based auction houses Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton.

Fasig-Tipton officials would not comment on any discussions regarding management of the Canadian Breeders Sales auctions, including its flagship early September yearling sale. But Keeneland spokesman Jim Williams confirmed that Keeneland president Nick Nicholson and Willmot had "exchanged calls."

"We are open to future discussion," Williams said.

Willmot said Woodbine Entertainment expects to decide within a week on a new sale company for the facility.

. . . but Byrne Park Stud still active

Canadian Breeders Sales may be winding down, but Michael Byrne remains as active as ever in the Thoroughbred business. Byrne's Park Stud will add a new stallion to its roster next week with the arrival of Perigee Moon, a Group 3-winning Hennessy colt who will stand for the partnership of Park Stud and Coolmore Stud.

The 3-year-old is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes-winner Old Trieste and to stakes-placed runners Proud Danzig and Pro For Sure.

A son of Grade 1 winner Lovlier Linda (Vigors), Perigee Moon will stand for a fee of $3,500 Canadian, or about $2,217 in American currency.

Perigee Moon won last year's Group 3 Killavullan Stakes in Ireland. He won two of three starts before a sesamoid injury cut his career short.