02/17/2011 3:50PM

Indiana shines in Jockey Club breeding report

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This year’s survey of the Midwest’s regional breeding programs offers some sobering statistics. The Jockey Club’s Report of Mares Bred shows a decline in breeding activity in practically every state, including one that has alternative gaming, Iowa.

Indiana

The one state that stands apart in this survey is Indiana. The state’s Thoroughbred breeding population is on a marked upswing, having seen its broodmare population more than double in three years since gaming was implemented at Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs in 2009.

According to the latest statistics available from The Jockey Club, 1,135 mares were bred to stallions standing in Indiana in 2010, which should result in a record number of registered Indiana foals of 2011. State law requires that a registered mare who foals in Indiana be bred back to a stallion standing in the state. That stipulation has ensured a steady flow of new stallions being imported to the region. There are 113 Thoroughbred stallions registered with the Indiana racing commission.

The race for 2010 leading sire in the state was a tight contest, with Chief Seattle edging Zavata for top honors by progeny earnings, $1,875,322 to $1,866,756. Chief Seattle’s best runner last season was graded stakes winner Bold Chieftain. Chief Seattle, a son of Seattle Slew who began his stud career in Kentucky and also stood in New York, now stands at Lake Shore Farm near Scottsburg for a $2,500 fee.

Transferred to Indiana last year, Kentucky import Zavata was represented by his first Breeders’ Cup winner and Grade 1 winner when Dakota Phone captured the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. A son of Phone Trick, Zavata stands at Larry Ernst’s Foot Fall Farm in Palmyra for a $2,500 fee.

Don and Dana Myers’ Swifty Farms in Seymour has been a leading contributor to the state’s population of runners. The farm stands former perennial leading sire Crown Ambassador and added two new stallions to its roster for the 2011 breeding season, Eaton’s Gift and True Quality.

A former Zayat Stables runner, Eaton’s Gift is a son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Johannesburg. He captured two Grade 2 events – the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream and the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder – and earned more than $476,000 in his career. He will stand for a $3,000 fee.

True Quality, a son of Elusive Quality, won the Grade 2 General George and Paumonok Handicap. He will stand for $2,500.

Foot Fall Farms has steadily expanded its presence among Indiana stallion stations and will stand Bittel Road in his first season at stud. A son of top sire Stormy Atlantic, Bittel Road captured the Grade 3 Woodford Reserve Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland in a career that saw him win three stakes and more than $336,000. He will stand for $1,500.

The Stallion Station in Anderson has relocated two stallions to its facility for the 2011 breeding season. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day will stand for a $1,000 fee. Domestic Dispute, a son of Unbridled’s Song who had progeny earnings of more than $1.7 million last season, will stand for $2,000.

Iowa

Iowa horsemen may face a new challenge following a proposal by Gov. Terry Branstad that would raise the tax rate on casinos in Iowa from 22 percent to 36 percent in an effort to shore up the state’s 2012 fiscal year balance sheet. A gaming tax increase could adversely affect the racing program at Prairie Meadows, which has a casino that helps subsidize purses. Only 164 mares were bred to stallions based in Iowa in 2009, nearly a third the number that were bred in 2004. The Iowa foal crop should not be significantly larger than what is produced in neighboring Minnesota, a jurisdiction that does not benefit from slot machine gaming subsidies.

Wild Gold, a son of Wild Again, led Iowa’s stallion ranks for the second consecutive year, with $506,254 in progeny earnings. Now 21, he stands at Madison County Thoroughbreds in Macksburg for $1,000.

Special K Stables will stand two new stallions for 2011 at its facility in Runnels. Congo King, a stakes-placed son of Horse Chestnut will stand for a $1,750 fee. Special K will also stand Restless Mon, a stakes-placed son of Maria’s Mon, for a $1,500 fee.

Michigan

Unlike the burgeoning market for stallions and mares in Indiana, Michigan’s breeding industry is reeling from a near-death-blow dealt by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who last year drastically cut the state’s Office of Racing Commissioner’s budget, effectively cutting the state’s 2010 Thoroughbred dates at Pinnacle Race Course in half to 44 days.

After the simulcasting operation at Pinnacle was closed in November, the future of racing at the track remains unclear. This latest episode is one in a long string of setbacks for Michigan horsemen since Detroit Race Course was shuttered in 1998. Racing was shifted to Great Lakes Downs in 1999 and then to Pinnacle in 2008.

The state’s breeding industry has understandably suffered as a consequence. The Jockey Club’s foaling statistics reveal a steady decline in the state’s foal crop during the last decade. There were 198 mares bred to Michigan-based stallions in 2010, down from 549 four years earlier.

Syncline repeated as the state’s leading sire by progeny earnings in 2010, besting past leading sires The Deputy and Demaloot Demashoot by a sizeable margin. A son of Danzig, Syncline stands at McMaster Farm in Fenton for a $1,000 fee.

Minnesota

With a purse structure bolstered by its card club, Canterbury Park kept up its decade-long performance as a profitable entity as it continues its quest to secure slot machines from the Minnesota legislature. Significant shortfalls in the state’s budget give the track’s backers hope that its perennial pursuit of added gaming alternatives will be rewarded this year.

While the number of mares bred in Minnesota had consistently been between 250 to 300 mares per year in the last decade, only 194 mares were bred to stallions in the state in 2010.

Gold Fever, who was bred to only four mares in 2009 after transferring to Minnesota, has since died but was represented by progeny who collectively earned $637,381, highest in the state. Second by a clear margin in the rank of progeny earnings was Demidoff, who led the state’s stallion population in 2009, 2007, and 2006. A 21-year-old full brother to Gone West, Demidoff stands at Waverly Stallion Station for $2,500.

Ohio

All three of Ohio’s Thoroughbred tracks have changed hands in the last 12 months, with each being purchased by a gaming company after legislation that would allow the installation of video lottery terminals at the state’s racetracks was passed in 2009.

Newly elected Gov. John Kasich has not given a clear indication he will follow through on issuing a directive that would allow the installation of the terminals, asking for more time to study the issue.
Only 117 mares were bred to Ohio-based stallions in 2010, a marked decline from the state’s foal crop of 254 foals in 2008.

None of these developments has affected the continued dominance of Mercer Mill, who led the state’s stallion rankings by progeny earnings for the eighth consecutive year. A son of Forty Niner bred by Overbrook Farm, Mercer Mill stands at Fair Winds Farm in Waynesville for $2,500. Seattle Slew’s son Bold Truth continued his role as the heir apparent, finishing third in the state’s rankings while represented by just 13 runners. Bold Truth stands at Belford Farm in Gilead for a $2,000 fee.

Nebraska

Stallions based in Nebraska were bred to 143 mares in 2010, down from 363 mares covered in 2006. Nebraska’s leading sire, Blumin Affair, completed his eighth consecutive year atop the state’s stallion ranking by progeny earnings with $536,368 and has proved to be popular in past seasons with breeders in Minnesota and Iowa.

A 20-year old son of Dynaformer, Blumin Affair stands at Rogers Ranch in Mead for $2,000.