01/17/2003 12:00AM

State breeding industry thriving

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New York's breeding industry showed growth in several areas in 2002, according to figures compiled by the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund.

The number of mares bred to New York stallions last year was 2,548, a 17.1 percent jump from 2001. Since 1994, the number of mares bred to resident stallions has soared 44 percent.

In 2002, the number of registered New York stallions increased by 10.2 percent to 151.

Foals by Empire State stallions increased 2.6 percent to 1,238 last year. Since 1994, the number of New York-sired foals has risen 32 percent.

Active farms in the state declined slightly, from 407 two years ago to 401 last year, but compared to 1994 grew 15.2 percent.

"Why am I not surprised?," said Dennis Brida, the executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders. "The numbers don't surprise me because I see it in the number of farms and people involved. Our membership is up this year and all that combined makes for a successful program."

Nielsen elected NYTB president

Jerry Nielsen has been elected to a second term as NYTB president. Also reelected at last week's organizational meeting of the group's board of directors were Barry Ostrager, vice-president, and Barbara Brewer, who will be serving her fifth term as the secretary-treasurer.

Nielsen and his wife, Joanne, own Sunnyfield Farm in Bedford and are the breeders of Along Came Mary, I'm All Yours, and Roman Dancer - all stakes winners in 2002. Ostrager, a New York city attorney, is a principal in Questroyal Stud in Hudson. Brewer and her husband Ed and daughter Toby own Onteora Farm in Canandaigua, near Finger Lakes Race Track.

Rotella tops among owners

John Rotella, Say Florida Sandy's owner, earned the most money in open company awards last year.

By finishing in the top four in open company races run in New York last year, Rotella's New York-bred runners amassed a total of $38,869 in owner awards.

Say Florida Sandy, the all-time leading New York-bred in money won with $1,988,807, largely was responsible for Rotella's open award windfall. A winner of three open company allowances races, Say Florida Sandy also earned award money by finishing among the top four in several stakes, including the Grade 1 Carter, Grade 2 A. G. Vanderbilt, and Grade 3 Gravesend.

Carl Lizza's Flying Zee Stables led breeders in award money earned last year. Lizza, who in partnership owns Highcliff Farm in Delanson, collected $162,114 in breeder awards.

Gander outstanding New York-bred

The New York Turf Writers Association honored Gander with the Big Apple Award for outstanding New York-bred in 2002. The award will be given to Gander's owners, Ted and Mike Gatsas, in Saratoga Springs at the Gideon Putnam Hotel on Aug. 18.

Gander's biggest win last year came in the $250,000 Empire Classic on New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park on Oct. 19. Gander, a gelding, is trained by John Terranova. He also finished second in the Grade 1 Woodward to Lido Palace.

Pair of $250,000 races added

The addition of two races worth $250,000 each and purse increases for two other races on the 2003 New York Stallion Stakes calendar will provide stallion nominators with the biggest boon since the series has been in existence.

The Stallion Stakes, restricted to the progeny of New York-sired horses, features eight races, worth $1.25 million. Stallion nomination awards are distributed on first- through fifth-place finishes in six of the races and are worth a total of $26,250.

Stallion nominators can earn up to $7,500 in award money if the progeny of a nominated stallion wins one of the $250,000 races run at Belmont Park on June 8. The most stallion nominators previously could earn was $3,750 based on a first-place finish in a $125,000 race.

The first two races in the series are on April 27 at Aqueduct.