07/16/2009 11:00PM

Pennsylvania breeders issue alarm over funds

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The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association and the state's racing interests are calling for collective action to prevent legislators from using the sport's slot-machine revenue to help resolve Pennsylvania's $3.2 billion budget deficit.

The breeders' association issued an alert to its members on July 15 that "certain House members" are targeting the state's Race Horse Development Fund for as much as $100 million in a bid to plug the deficit without raising taxes. The Race Horse Development Fund is generated by slot revenue and shared by Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeders and horsemen. The Thoroughbred Breeding Fund receives a share of the development fund and could stand to lose $8 million under one proposal the House is considering, according to the breeders' group.

"This amount, combined with the $5 million from parimutuel tax revenue that has been short-stopped by the Department of Revenue from finding its proper way into the Thoroughbred Breeding Fund, represents a hit to the Breeding Fund of over 65 percent of its rightful total," the president of the breeders' association, Peter Giangiulio, wrote in the memo to the group's members. "What has developed in Pennsylvania into the country's top such breeding incentive program would be gutted, and the incentives and rewards for breeding Thoroughbreds would be destroyed."

The Race Horse Development Fund receives about 12 percent of gross revenue from the state's slots machines, a total of about $200 million in 2008. That revenue contributes both to purses and breeding incentives for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds.

The fund presents a tempting target for legislators under pressure to solve the budget crisis quickly. State employees have been reporting for work without pay since July 1, a situation that will continue until a budget is settled.

House Republicans and Democrats both have fielded budget plans they said would not require tax hikes but would slash government spending. The status of the development fund was unclear Thursday afternoon as legislators continued the budget debate, which was expected to continue well into Friday, according to a House Appropriations Office staffer who said she couldn't comment on any specifics relating to the development fund.

A government source who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to comment on the matter said lawmakers appeared less interested in altering the percentages that accrue to the development fund than in determining whether Pennsylvania's Fiscal Code would allow them to take money out of the Race Horse Development Fund - a move the breeders' memo decried as a "raid."

Pennsylvania's breeding and racing industry has received an estimated $300 million from gaming since slots came to the state in 2006, contributing to growth in Thoroughbred breeding there.

Former Darby Dan partner in new venture

Wayne Sweezey, who was managing partner of Darby Dan with John Phillips until his departure last year, has launched a new boarding farm and sales agency.

Sweezey was bound by a non-compete clause in his Darby Dan contract for a year after leaving that Lexington stud farm. But the non-compete period ended on July 1, 2009, and Sweezey has hung out his shingle with his wife, Cathy, at the new Timber Town Stable. His first sales consignment, T. Wayne Sweezey and Partners, will debut with 22 horses at the Keeneland September yearling sale. His primary partner in the sales agency is Maureen Merkler.

The Sweezeys are developing Timber Town Stable on 130 acres of the former Glencoe Farm property on Leestown Pike in Lexington, Ky. They also own a 35-acre farm with 15 stalls about two miles from Timber Town.

Sweezey said most of the farm's renovations are done, and all will be complete within two months. Timber Town has three barns totaling 40 stalls and already has 29 boarders lined up. Among the mares currently on the property are Wait a While, 2006's champion 3-year-old filly, now in foal to Distorted Humor, and Green Room, dam of recent Prix Jean Prat winner Lord Shanakill. Former Canadian champion juvenile filly Catch the Thrill, now carrying a Tiznow foal, also has been in residence there. So has 2006 Argentine champion juvenile filly and multiple graded winner Safari Queen, who has an A.P. Indy colt by her side.

"We'll take more mares as the facilities will allow it," Sweezey said.

Timber Town also has developed a relationship with Charles Nuckols III, under which some mares will stay at Nuckols Farm and their foals will come to Timber Town for sale-prepping.