02/21/2009 12:00AM

Slots boost Indiana in a tough market

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The effects of the declining economy have already been felt in the sales paddocks in Lexington and Ocala, and as the 2009 breeding season commences, regional breeders are facing challenges of their own.

In addition to the declining value of their breeding stock, several racing venues were shuttered last year - including The Woodlands in Kansas - or threatened with plans to close - Beulah Park and River Downs - leaving breeders to re-assess their future plans.

Until the annual "Reports of Mares Bred" are compiled by The Jockey Club in August, the expected decline in the 2010 foal crop can't be accurately measured, but developments over the last few months hint that the cutback may be extensive as some farms have chosen not to breed all of their mares this year.

Also, breeders that participate in statebred programs provide a number of mares for the lower-priced stallions that stand in Kentucky. Because of a significant increase in incentives offered to out-of-state breeders by many Kentucky stallion stations, it would appear that managers of stallions in regional breeding programs will find it more difficult to attract mares this season.

Indiana

Indiana is the one state in the Midwest where Thoroughbred breeding activity continues at a spirited clip. The introduction of slot machines at Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs during the past year has bolstered purses for Indiana-breds. A change in the state's breeding rules that requires foaling mares to be bred back to stallions who stand in the state has prompted the importation of new and proven stallions.

The leading Indiana-based stallion by progeny earnings in 2008 was Wild Zone, who was transferred to Indiana for the 2008 breeding season. The son of Wild Again stands at Breakway Farm in Dillsboro for a $3,000 fee. For 2009, Breakway Farm has imported the Kentucky stallion Century City to stand for a $2,500 fee. A winner of multiple group/graded stakes in both Europe and America, Century City was sired by Danzig and produced from the champion filly Alywow.

The Stallion Station in Anderson has expanded its operation to stand two new stallions this year, Alysweep and Barely Union Scale. A winner of the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes, Alysweep began his stud career in Florida and will stand for a $1,500 fee. Barely Union Scale is an Illinois-bred son of Dixie Union who will stand his first year at stud for a $1,500 fee.

Swifty Farms, one of Indiana's leading Thoroughbred farms for the last decade, is in the midst of a rebuilding phase. Former leading sire Crown Ambassador was pensioned before the 2008 breeding season but was ably replaced by his Grade 2-winning son Pass Rush, whose first progeny will race in 2010. Swifty Farms has added two new stallions this season. Evil Minister, a winner of the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes, will stand his first season for a $4,000 fee. El Nino, a son of Storm Cat from the immediate family of Boston Harbor, will stand for $2,500.

Two other notable off-season transfers to Indiana are High Fly and Hap. A winner of the Grade 1 Florida Derby, High Fly began his stud career in Florida and will be represented by his first runners this year. He will stand at T.W. Stables in Boonville for $3,500. Hap, a winner of six graded stakes on grass who began his stud career in Kentucky, stands at Still Creek Farm in Brookville for $1,000.

Iowa

Prairie Meadows, the state's only racetrack, generated record revenue in 2008 of just over $200 million from its casino and horse racing operations. As a result, the state's breeders will see no major changes to the track's purse structure in the coming year. Debates in the state's capitol over the merits of subsidies to Iowa's racing industry in the form of purse supplements create lingering questions about the future of Iowa racing.

Pikepass, who began his stud career in Kentucky and was relocated to Iowa before the 2008 breeding season, leads the state's stallion ranking by progeny earnings. A stakes-winning son of Forty Niner, Pikepass stands at Madison County Thoroughbreds in Macksburg for $2,000. Madison County is also represented by Wild Gold, who is third in the state's stallion rankings and also stands for $2,000.

The Special K Stables in Runnels is represented by King of Scat, who finished second in Iowa's rankings and stands for $1,750. Special K also stands Added Edge, a son of Smart Strike who was bred to 52 mares last season - three times as many mares as any other stallion in Iowa. Added Edge's advertised fee for this season is $3,000.

Special K also secured Pies Prospect, a graded stakes winner by Crafty Prospector, for relocation to Iowa after he stood in Pennsylvania during his first two seasons at stud.

The Rockin River Ranch in Winterset imported Impeachment to Iowa, his third stop in a career in which he has also stood in Florida and Ontario. A son of Deputy Minister with more than $350,000 in earnings, Impeachment is best remembered for his third-place finishes in the 2000 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Michigan

The state's breeders found new hope with the July opening of Pinnacle Race Course near Detroit. Pinnacle is on course to offer an 82-day meeting in 2009, though construction of the track's second development phase appears to be on hold pending financing approval.

Santa Anita Derby winner The Deputy led Michigan's stallion rankings in 2008 and stands at Hubel Farms for $2,000 live foal. This was the first year since The Deputy was relocated to Michigan that his progeny earnings bested his perennial rival Demaloot Demashoot, who was the leading sire in Michigan for seven consecutive years. Demaloot Demashoot stands at McMaster Farm for $2,500.

Proven sire Service Stripe returns to the state where he began his stud career after also standing at farms in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. A son of Deputy Minister, his best progeny include the Michigan-breds Cashier's Dream, winner of the Grade 1 Spinaway, and Secret Romeo, an earner of $865,000. Service Stripe will stand at Belair Farm in Highland for $2,000.

Minnesota

The state's breeding industry is once again pursuing a grass-roots effort to encourage legislation that would allow slot-machine gaming to be conducted at Canterbury Park to bolster the track's purse structure.

Appealing Skier led the state's stallion rankings by progeny earnings in 2008. A winner of the Grade 2 Withers and Hutcheson Stakes, Appealing Skier is a half-brother to Trippi. He stands at Hanson Farm in Adrian for $1,850.

New to the state is the well-traveled Gold Fever, who performed stints at stud in New York and Kentucky before relocating to Minnesota. A winner of the Grade 1 NYRA Mile in 1996, Gold Fever will stand at Dove Hill Farm in Farmington for $2,850. Dove Hill also added the recently retired Matt's Broken Vow, winner of the Grade 3 Marine Stakes and Canadian Derby, who will stand for a $2,850 fee.

Nebraska

During the past year, plans were approved that would move the Nebraska State Fair from Lincoln to Grand Island in 2010, but little has changed in the state's stallion rankings as Blumin Affair was the leader by progeny earnings for the sixth consecutive year. The 18-year-old son of Dynaformer stands at Rogers Ranch in Mead for $2,000. Dazzling Falls completed the year in his customary second-place rank on Nebraska's leading sires list.

Ohio

After threatening to drastically reduce or eliminate racing dates for Thoroughbreds in Ohio, representatives of Beulah Park and River Downs reached an agreement with Ohio horsemen to conduct racing in 2009. The state's third track, Thistledown, had previously been granted 2009 racing dates. Thistledown is currently being offered for sale by its owner, Magna Entertainment Corp.

Fair Winds Farm in Waynesville stands the one-two finishers in Ohio's stallion rankings for 2008. Leading sire Mercer Mill has topped the state's stallion ranking by progeny earnings for six consecutive years. Bred by Overbrook Farm in Kentucky, the son of Forty Niner stands for a private fee. Runner-up Gold Market is another Overbrook homebred who stands at Fair Winds for a private fee.

In a stallion population that has proven fairly static, the sire King Tutta has made a solid impression with limited opportunity, finishing sixth on the state's sire list. A son of A.P. Indy, King Tutta's first crop are 4-year olds of 2009, and he figures prominently in future sire rankings in Ohio. King Tutta stands at Double D Farm in Medina.

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