04/22/2015 2:37PM

Marks: The New Jersey Pacing Stallion Experiment

Lisa Photo
Lis Mara is standing for $2,500 at Deo Volente Farms.

After being forced into playing “second fiddle” in terms of Sire Stake purse structures, the Standardbred Breeders and Owners association of New Jersey has instituted a rewards program that virtually eliminates service fees for Garden State pacing stallions to owners of resident mares throughout the state.

Previously the New Jersey Sires Stakes program was the envy of neighboring States given the stature of the Meadowlands, but with the removal of casino subsidies, that is no longer operative.

Meanwhile, neighboring states like New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware have long since augmented their state breeding programs with revenues from Racinos. Thus their resulting sire stake programs remain both extensive and lucrative.

This is not the case in New Jersey. As a result, the intrastate breeding industry has been hanging by the proverbial thread as one by one resident stallions have been relocated to either Pennsylvania or New York. Consequently, the New Jersey-sired racing program has taken quite a hit both prestige-wise and financially.  

[DRF HARNESS: Sign Up for the FREE newly designed DRF Harness Newsletter!]

Fortunately, one New Jersey Farm—Deo Volente—took a major step last year syndicating and standing the 2014 Hambletonian champion Trixton within its picturesque Flemington acreage. This has resulted in a full book of mares for the outstanding Muscle Hill son, suggesting that the New Jersey trotting sire stakes programs should and most likely will be comprised of Grand Circuit caliber colts and fillies. That is of course when they reach racing age in 2018.

The same unfortunately did not hold true for the future pacing divisions in New Jersey, as the remaining and/or new resident stallions were not attracting significant numbers of pacing mares. This is changing with some resident stallions now standing for what will amount to minimal or no service fee. Under the auspices of the program, those fees will be rebated by the NJSBOA under the following conditions.

The rebate program for pacing stallions allows for up to $2,500 in stallion fees to be refunded per live foal. Foals from resident mares can recoup the entire amount while 50% will be rebated for mares residing in other states. One of the provisions is that the New Jersey resident stallion must be listed on the United States Trotting Association’s industry wide “Stars” program (an online listing of featured stallions that contains current performance information on their offspring from the USTA database).  Therefore, those seeking to breed to a New Jersey pacing stallion would be wise to check “Stars”.

There’s more to this than meets the immediate eye. Horses bred in 2015 will foal in 2016 and be eligible to race as 2-year-olds in 2018. By that time the overall climate within the state could be altogether different given all the discussion of expanding casino gambling from Atlantic City to also include the more populated Northern regions.

Whether or not that means locating casinos at racetracks like Meadowlands, Monmouth and Freehold remains to be seen. Certainly the Meadowlands via its proximity to the New York City region would appear to be an attractive location for a casino. Should such a thing actually occur, that would suggest that those offspring from existing New Jersey resident stallions—trotting and pacing—could be eligible to race for purse monies far in excess of what they may race for this year. That will also enhance potential values on New Jersey-sired yearlings like Trixton and of course Father Patrick at the auction sales.

And therein is the gamble!

Michael Gulotta, the managing partner of Deo Volente farms, has undertaken an intensive lobbying program in an attempt to persuade state officials with the economic benefits of maintaining the horse industry within the Garden State.

In many ways, the syndication and location of Trixton, is an ample illustration to New Jersey of his confidence that this extensive lobbying will eventually bear fruit. Trixton, by Muscle Hill from a sister to Andover Hall, Angus Hall and Conway Hall, offers perhaps the apex pedigree in the trotting world today and his full book features a number of world class trotting broodmares.

Deo Volente also brought its world champion pacer Lis Mara back to New Jersey from his previous base in New Zealand and Canada and is offering his stallion services for the nominal fee of $2,500.  That fee, as stipulated above, will be 100% rebated for resident New Jersey broodmares.

There is a referendum scheduled for November in which New Jersey residents can vote to expand casino gambling from the legislated confines of Atlantic City. How this will go is anybody’s guess, but we’d imagine there will be intensive advocating both pro and con.

To change direction, may I call attention to qualifier number nine at The Meadowlands Saturday morning?  Listed to start are Market Share, Father Patrick, Bee A Magician and this year’s good thing Melady’s Monet. It’s almost like a free-for-all trot except it’s a qualifier with no purse. Still it’s a must-see for all harness fans.      

[Editor’s Note: You can get up-to-the-minute information on the Meadowlands qualifiers each Saturday by following DRF Harness on Twitter.]