04/04/2017 3:06PM

New incentives fuel optimism for New York-breds, sires

Barbara D. Livingston
Effinex, one of the highest-earning New York-breds of all time, returns to his home state as part of a strong class of new stallions for 2017.

When Mind Your Biscuits won the Group 1, $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen going away March 25, he became the latest New York-bred to hoist the flag for a statebred program consistently producing runners who can hold their own against any company.

Other standout statebreds just in the last five years have included champion Dayatthespa; graded stakes performers International Star, Tencendur, and Upstart, all prominent players on the Kentucky Derby trail; and Grade 1 winners Artemis Agrotera, Discreet Marq, Effinex, Haveyougoneaway, Palace, Princess Violet, The Lumber Guy, Unbridled Command, and Willy Beamin.

Effinex and Tencendur both have returned to their home state to enter stud at a time when there has been some positive news for a racing and breeding program that has successfully fought through more than its fair share of adversity. Things appear to be stable, for the short term, at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, which has a symbiotic relationship with local horsemen and the New York-bred program. Furthermore, purse incentives at Finger Lakes also will serve to support the state’s burgeoning stallion roster.

“After a long period of uncertainty, we are stabilizing Finger Lakes for the short term and at the same time using the opportunity to make New York-sired New York-breds an even more valuable investment than they already are,” said Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. “The New York breeding and racing programs absolutely depend on a healthy Finger Lakes.”

An agreement was finalized in mid-March to protect purses at Finger Lakes – and, therefore, revenue for horsemen. Officials feared that the new del Lago Resort & Casino, just 28 miles away, might draw customers away from the video-lottery terminals at Finger Lakes.

The two-year agreement, which has the option for a third year, includes racetrack operator Delaware North committing as much as $1 million a year to the horsemen’s purse account; del Lago providing about $440,000 a year; and the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund contributing $1.5 million.

“We are proud to provide necessary support to help Finger Lakes Racetrack thrive as part of Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo’s comprehensive plan to preserve racing,” said John Poklemba, chairman of the fund. “This action, along with the other components forged by the governor’s office, ensures the track and horsemen maintain operations without spending a single taxpayer dollar.”

With the deal in place, Finger Lakes is set to run its annual 145-day meet from April to November, with purses the next two years averaging $13,690 per race – up from $13,224 in 2016.

The New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund also approved an incentive to invest in New York-breds sired by New York stallions. When such a horse wins a maiden special weight at Finger Lakes, the horse will earn an additional $7,000 from a fund purse enrichment.

“Our hope is that the seven-grand boost in first-place money will help more of our breeders look to our registered New York stallions first when making breeding plans,” said Tracy Egan, the fund’s executive director.

New York’s other three racetracks – Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga – fly under the banner of the New York Racing Association, which remains in flux as the New York Assembly and Senate discuss budget proposals and plans to reprivatize the organization, which has been under state control for the past five years. In the midst of this, though, there will be strong purses with additional incentives when 2-year-old racing begins this spring at Aqueduct and Belmont.

Eight maiden races worth $100,000 each will be offered as part of NYRA’s program for 2-year-olds leading up to the Astoria and Tremont stakes, run in early June as the first two juvenile stakes of the year in New York. Bonuses worth a total of $20,000 will be offered to the owner and trainer of New York-breds who finish first, second, or third in any statebred or open 2-year-old maiden race at Aqueduct or Belmont this spring and summer.

The incentives will help bolster interest in New York’s stallion program, which is welcoming one of its strongest classes in memory.

“New York is a great program – best in the country, most lucrative in the country,” said owner and breeder Philip Birsh, whose homebred Tencendur, a close second to Frosted in the 2015 Wood Memorial, is set to enter stud at Mill Creek Farm. “The program is designed to promote New York farms and preserve New York farmland. I believe in that 100 percent. And the New York program creates a lot of jobs in the state. I’m a New Yorker. I believe in our state’s program.”

Effinex, entering stud at Questroyal North, is one of the highest-earning New York-breds of all time, with a bankroll of more than $3.3 million. The Mineshaft horse posted his biggest victory in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap and captured two editions of the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. He also finished second to Triple Crown hero American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Waldorf Farm newcomer V. E. Day was bred in Kentucky but posted his biggest win in New York, taking the historic Travers Stakes in 2014 at Saratoga.

New York also adds three sons of prominent commercial sires in Grade 2 winner Laoban, from the first crop of phenomenal young sire Uncle Mo, at Sequel Stallions; millionaire War Dancer, by War Front, at Rockridge Stud; and Grade 3 winner Scatman, by the late Scat Daddy, at Foggy Bottom Farm.

“We’ve had a lot of very, very solid New York-bred horses over the last several years,” Birsh said. “I think the New York program is improving the quality of our racehorses. These arriving this year are only going to create more interest in people staying in state and breeding in state.”