01/04/2002 12:00AM

Lobbying Congress key, farms told

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Thoroughbred industry needs to maintain pressure on Congress in 2002 to achieve beneficial legislation, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association CEO Tim Smith and American Horse Council president Jay Hickey warned the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club Thursday night.

But Smith also acknowledged that the lobbying funds the NTRA raises through a voluntary check-off program at Thoroughbred sales have dropped significantly since the program's inception in 1999.

"When we were at the maximum level of participation, we were probably up to 75 percent to 80 percent [participation among buyers and sellers], but we're back now to about 50 percent," Smith said at KTFMC's January meeting.

Under the program participants are asked to donate one-tenth of one percent of the sale price of a horse. The NTRA earmarked that revenue for political efforts in 2000.

The NTRA had given "in excess of $600,000" to the AHC in 2000, Smith said, and he encouraged breeders to keep up their participation in the program to help fund the AHC's lobbying effort on behalf of the Thoroughbred industry.

Hickey noted that the year's successes included successful passage of an emergency loan program for some breeders hit hard by mare reproductive loss syndrome. Legislation passed in December will allow some breeders who sustained 30 percent losses in mares they own or board to apply for disaster loans from the U. S. Department of Agriculture for a two-year period.

Smith and Hickey emphasized that the coming year could be critical as the Thoroughbred industry is likely to face a nationwide economic recession and key legislation pertaining to internet gambling and other issues. Among the legislative priorities in 2002 Smith mentioned was an effort to fight a 30 percent federal withholding on foreign wagers on American racing, which Smith said prevents foreign gamblers from betting into commingled pools.

Smith also said that the NTRA plans to offer "a special stimulus program" to member tracks to help draw patrons to the track. Smith said that the national marketing organization will help members offer special promotions with the goal of generating increased attendance and handle. Smith also said that the NTRA is continuing work on a proposed "Great State Challenge," showcasing top runners from the nation's statebred programs.

Discussing the year's accomplishments, Smith pointed to the "re-branding" of the Breeders' Cup as the World Thoroughbred Championships. Citing the fact that the New York Times referred to the Breeders' Cup this year as "horse racing's Olympics," Smith said, "That's real progress, let me tell you. That's progress."

David Foley, executive director of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, also addressed the club Thursday. Foley said that the AAEP's priorities in 2002 are .

medication issues and uniform testing. The group also is discussing a partnership with the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association to provide TOBA members with general horse-care information, including guidance on selecting veterinarians.

Colostrum supply low at bank

The KTFMC has issued a call to Bluegrass farms to donate extra pints of colostrum to the area's colostrum bank at Lexington's Hagyard Davidson McGee equine clinic.

Colostrum is a mare's first milk after foaling; it contains immunoglobulin G, a substance that provides the foal with antibodies to fight infection and disease.

According to the KTFMC newsletter, the colostrum bank's supply dropped to a mere four pints in late December. Mare reproductive loss syndrome was cited as a factor in the shortage.

The Hagyard Davidson McGee pharmacy requests that donors fill the colostrum bottles all the way up; tape a sample syringe of the colostrum to the side of the bottle; and write the donor farm and mare's name on the label.

Castleton converts to breeding

Lexington's historic Castleton Farm, now known as Castleton Lyons since its sale to airline founder Tony Ryan last year, will be a commercial breeding operation, according to the farm's new president, Gabriel Duignan.

Duignan said that Ryan has about 25 broodmares on the 1,100-acre property, marking the first time since 1911 that Thoroughbreds have occupied the land. Castleton is best known as a legendary Standardbred nursery that was operated by the Van Lennep family. Before 1911, Thoroughbred horseman James Keene owned it.

Duignan said Ryan, the founder of Europe's Ryanair, is renovating the facilities, which include a 10-stall stallion barn and land for about 200 horses. Plans are for the operation to sell for Ryan and clients at select yearling sales, but Duignan said Ryan might stand stallions in the future as well.