04/04/2008 12:00AM

Insurance program to aid farms

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Bud Johnston does not need a reminder about the exorbitant costs that California horse farm owners pay for worker's compensation. The figure for his Old English Rancho in Sanger, Calif., is easy to remember.

"It's $1,000 a day, and that's before we open the door or buy a bale of hay," he said Friday morning at Santa Anita.

For Johnston's operation, and other California Thoroughbred farms, relief could be on the way. A captive insurance program developed by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and modeled after an existing program for Thoroughbred trainers in the state is nearing completion and could be put in place later this spring, according to CTBA executive director Doug Burge.

Burge said Friday that farms could have savings of "15 to 20" percent off current policies, many of which are purchased through the government-backed State Fund insurance system.

For Johnston, and other farm owners, the savings cannot occur fast enough.

"It's ridiculous," Johnston said of the cost. "I hope it accomplishes what they believe it will."

The program will be limited to farms that are CTBA members and will be brokered by MOC Insurance Services of San Francisco, which developed the program for trainers.

Scoop Vessels, former president of the CTBA and the owner of Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, Calif., said the new program will benefit his operation.

"Once it comes rolling out, we'll take a hard look at it," Vessels said. "For a majority of the people, it could be [a savings of] 10 to 15 percent daily, which is quite a bit in today's market. That's a pretty good deal. Anything we can do to help the farm nowadays, it's tough out there."

Burge said the program could be in place within 30 days and could offset increases in labor, fuel, and hay costs that currently burden farms.

"It's our goal and intention to offer the farms a competitive alternative to the current situation, which basically has the State Fund as the only entity that has written worker's compensation insurance," he said.

Filly gives Momentum his first winner

The freshman stallion Momentum was represented by his first winner when Aromatica won a two-furlong race for 2-year-olds at Santa Anita on March 28.

A filly racing against males, Aromatica was timed in 21.01 seconds, winning by a length. Owned and bred by Francoise Dupuis, Diane Keith, and Michael Neumann, Aromatica is trained by Jean-Pierre Dupuis. The filly is out of Doman's Magic, by Magical Mile.

Momentum is by Nureyev out of the Foolish Pleasure mare Imprudent Love. Momentum raced in England and the United States, winning 4 of 17 starts and $664,817. A two-time stakes winner, Momentum ran second in the Pacific Classic and Hollywood Gold Cup in 2002.

Owned by Paul Reddam, Momentum stands for $5,000 at Vessels and had more than 100 foals in his last two crops, Vessels said.

As part of a promotion to attract mares to the stallion, Reddam offered a deal to breeders that yearlings could be sold back to the farm this year for $15,000 without obligation, or three times the $5,000 stud fee. Vessels said that there have been "quite a few" breeders who had taken advantage of the promotion.

The promotion is no longer being offered, Vessels said.

"We do have a lot of interest in him," Vessels said. "It was pretty forward thinking on [Reddam's] part, along with the horse doing his part of being a nice stallion. Paul stepped out of the box in regards to deal making. We had a couple years of 100 mares, that's pretty good."