07/05/2005 11:00PM

Kentucky groups stalled on breeder awards program

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Meetings among three Kentucky breeders' groups charged with recommending a breeders' award plan have stalled as the parties try to find common ground on the issue of distributing the projected $10 million to $12 million in annual awards for horses racing out of state.

That was the word Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club members got Tuesday night at the organization's monthly meeting.

The main point of contention, according to participants in the three-group meetings, is whether the Kentucky-bred awards should be limited to wins in Kentucky races or expanded to include victories nationwide and internationally.

The farm managers are one of three organizations that the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority has asked to develop a distribution proposal for the state's new breeder incentive awards. The other groups are the Kentucky Equine Education Project, an all-breeds grassroots education and lobbying group formed last year, and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders.

The incentive funds will come from an existing 6 percent sales tax on stud fees that the Kentucky legislature has now earmarked for breeder awards.

The farm managers, KEEP, and KTA had hoped to have consensus on a distribution proposal in time to make a recommendation on July 1 to the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority. The groups missed that self-imposed deadline.

The farm managers conducted a membership poll that showed 37 percent in favor of a national and limited international awards distribution, with 12 percent supporting a Kentucky-only program. The KTA has backed the broader program concept, but KEEP has not.

"In the meetings, we have just about come to a dead end," farm managers president Ken Wilkins told his membership Tuesday night. "If you're a KEEP member, you need to talk to your board members."

KEEP executive director Jim Navolio disagreed with the assessment that the parties had reached a dead end.

"Discussions are ongoing," he said. "I do think the position KEEP has adopted does differ in some ways from the KTA's. The KEEP idea is that the money should be awarded to the people who not only breed in Kentucky but also race in Kentucky. We believe that was the legislative intent."

Edd Roggenkamp, a breeder with seven mares at his Versailles, Ky., farm, said that the debate over whether to expand awards beyond Kentucky wins came down to two main points: On one hand, breeders who sell their foals can't guarantee that those horses will race in Kentucky and would forfeit any breeders' awards for out-of-state runners under the Kentucky-only program. On the other hand, Roggenkamp said, a national program that offered an average award of about $2,200, as opposed to an estimated average award of $7,100 under a Kentucky-only program, might not be enough of an incentive to influence breeders to stay or come to Kentucky.

Airdrie Stud owner and former Kentucky governor Brereton C. Jones Jr., a major supporter of the Kentucky-only program who did not attend the farm managers meeting, said he thinks the national program's award is not enough.

"We have got to have a Kentucky program that gives enough incentive to attract people with mares to come to Kentucky and for people who have mares here to keep them here year-round for eligibility," Jones said, noting that the KEEP-supported "Kentucky First" plan would offer awards for every Kentucky win, unlike the proposed national program, which would give a one-time award when a horse won its maiden.

Wilkins has pitched an idea that would commit the first $1 million in the awards fund to awards for Kentucky stakes wins; pay a one-time award for maiden special weight and maiden claiming wins nationally and internationally; pay double-awards for horses that win their maidens in Kentucky; and pay double-awards for winners anywhere produced by mares boarded year-round in Kentucky.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no new meetings among the parties had been scheduled.