05/04/2009 12:00AM

Statebred awards face 'catastrophe'


When the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund holds its next regular board meeting on May 7, an old topic is likely to come under discussion again: how to continue paying statebred breeders' awards at advertised levels even as the number of New York-bred races has increased and handle, the fund's main source of income, has dropped.

Last year, the fund fell $1.6 million short in money it could pay out to breeders who had earned awards, thanks to both declining fund revenue and a decades-old law that restricts the fund from paying out more than 50 percent of its total revenue in breeders' awards. In September, 2008, the fund stopped paying awards for fourth-place finishes in an attempt to narrow the funding gap. Last week, after negative feedback from members of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, a subcommittee examining the funding issue shelved a proposal to cut awards in claiming races. The subcommittee is expected to make an alternative recommendation at the fund's upcoming board meeting.

"We're facing economic catastrophe," said the fund's executive director, Martin Kinsella. "Handle is down in all sources we count on, ontrack and offtrack. The video lottery terminal project at Aqueduct is in a perpetual state of wait-and-see. We are funded by that revenue stream, via legislation, if and when the machines get up and running, but I can't envision that until at least late 2010, and probably 2011."

Kinsella said the best fixes are long-term ones. Video-lottery revenue is one of those, but in the meantime, he would like to see the fund get a cut of simulcast revenue.

"I think it's great," said Kinsela, that the New York Racing Association "can write a $46,000 allowance race." He added that fatter purses help attract owners and breeders to the state's Thoroughbred industry. "The fund pays awards based on that purse but doesn't get any of the simulcast revenue that helps put the purse at that level."

Kinsella also hopes someday the fund can convince legislators to do away with the 50-percent restriction on breeders' disbursements, so it can distribute more money annually, a change Kinsella said would close some of the gap between actual breeders' award earnings and the funds available to pay them.

The increase in New York-bred races and purses may put pressure on the fund, but Kinsella applauds that growth.

"The shortfall in the fund in breeders' awards is minimal compared to the amount of purse opportunities people have," he said. "A few years ago, NYRA would write 500 or maybe 600 restricted races. Now, it's more like 700 or 800."

Stonebridge has $18M asking price

Jeffrey Tucker's Stonebridge Farm near Schuylerville, N.Y., has come on the market.

Sotheby's is offering the farm in three parcels totaling more than 425 acres, with an asking price of $18 million for the entire package.

Tucker, a founder of the Fairfield Greenwich Group hedge fund that reportedly lost $7.5 billion in the Bernie Madoff investment scheme, also is the former chairman of Empire Racing Associates, a group formed to bid for the New York Racing Association's franchise.

The properties include the main house and training facilities on 92 acres at 125 Sherman Lane in Northumberland, N.Y., priced at $10 million; a broodmare and foaling facility on 98 acres in Northumberland listed for $3 million; and a yearling and broodmare operation on 235 acres in Moreau, N.Y., priced at $5 million.

Visionaire retired after injury

Grade 1 winner Visionaire has retired from the racetrack, Team Valor has announced.

The 4-year-old Grand Slam colt won New York's Grade 1 King's Bishop and the Grade 3 Gotham in 2008.

Visionaire most recently finished seventh in the Jerome Handicap and eighth in the Cigar Mile.

"Visionaire most likely suffered a knee chip in the King's Bishop," trainer Michael Matz said. "His next two races were unlike him. Surgery was performed by Dr. Larry Bramlage last fall, but he has not trained to our satisfaction, so the owners have decided to retire him rather than blemish his racing record."

Visionaire won 5 races in 12 starts for $465,882 in earnings. His stud plans are still in the air, and in the meantime he is available for potential buyers' inspection at Paragon Farm in Lexington, Ky., owned by Vision Racing partners Brandon and Diannah Perry.

Bred by Reiley McDonald, Visionaire is out of the stakes-placed French Deputy mare Scarlet Tango.

New Yorkers below average

The 75 New York-breds who sold at the recent Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's April juvenile auction fared moderately well, surpassing the sale average of $24,962.

They grossed $2,044,000 for an average price of $27,253.

The top-selling New York-bred was a son of Sky Mesa and the winning Dr. Blum mare Impulse Shopper consigned by the Casey Newick agency. He was also one of the sale's most notable home runs. The dark bay or brown colt was last seen in an auction ring last summer at Fasig-Tipton's preferred yearling sale. McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds consigned him there but brought him home again when he failed to sell on a $9,000 final bid.

The colt's trip to Ocala proved worthwhile. Now 2, he worked an eighth-mile in 10.60 seconds at the OBS under-tack preview, then brought a healthy $240,000 bid from Sky Mesa's owner, John Oxley.

There were 18 New York-breds at the OBS sale that failed to reach their reserve prices, for a buy-back percentage of 19 percent.

Correction:An earlier version of this article misstated the gross receipts and average price of New York-breds sold at the April Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's auction of 2-year-olds in training. As noted above, the 75 New York-breds sold for a total of $2,044,000, not $1,148,000. The average was $27,253, not $15,306.