Tag Archives: Breeding Statistics

Racino states draw breeders

A good indicator of the racing industry’s health in a given state is the number of mares it sends to the breeding shed.

This is a factor I try to illustrate whenever I explain Michigan’s situation to those unfamiliar with the industry. Because I am a strong believer in visual aids when giving a presentation, I decided to put together a chart to describe the breeding industry in the state of Michigan, compare it to other states in the region and explain the impact of alternative wagering on everyone involved.

It is no secret that horsemen are flocking to states with casino gaming at its racetracks. The fact will inevitably be brought up in any discussion about alternative wagering in a state that lacks it. However, the point is driven home when the figures are in clear sight.

Let’s have a look at the chart…

Thoroughbred Mares Bred in the Great Lakes Region by State, 1998-2009

Thoroughbred Mares Bred in the Great Lakes Region by State, 1998-2009.

X Axis = Year; Y Axis = Mares Bred *2009 figures are current as of 10/13/2009. Some reports are still yet to be received by the Jockey Club.

For a more detailed breakdown of the year-by-year breeding totals, a spreadsheet of the above data may be read here.

So what can we learn from these figures?

First and foremost, breeders are taking their mares where their foals can make the most money. The top three states listed in this sample are “racino states” (Because of its clear breeding advantage in the region, Kentucky was not included in the sample). The increased purse structure that comes with expanded gaming not only gives the horses themselves the best chance to earn a good living, it trickles down to the breeders in the form of incentive programs.

Also worthy of note is that in 1998, two of the three leading states (Indiana and West Virginia) actually bred fewer mares than Michigan. Today, both states breed several hundred more.

The clear exception to this rule is West Virginia, whose figures have actually decreased since installing full-blown slots in 2006. Two factors may be responsible for this. First, West Virginia installed slots at the same time as neighboring Pennsylvania. The 2007 debut of Presque Isle Downs, about 135 miles away from Mountaineer, also helped draw horses out of West Virginia. Second, the breeder’s incentive program in Pennsylvania is quite lucrative. Boosting the purses only made it that much juicier. Here, have a look for yourself…

Breeder’s Incentive Programs in the Great Lakes Region by State

However, West Virginia enjoyed a major boost throughout the first half of the decade. It was the first state in the region to adopt expanded gaming in 1999 when it installed coin-operated video lottery terminals. With the help of the VLTs, West Virginia pulled itself up from the dregs of the racing world to the point where the state actually led the region in mares bred in 2004. Despite the recent dropoff, West Virginia remains well ahead of the game from where it began.

Another conclusion that can be drawn from the data is racino states are drawing mares away from non-racino states. The poster child for this observation is Ohio, a state flanked by one armed bandits in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Indiana. Eleven years ago, the Buckeye State accounted for a comparable number of mares bred to Pennsylvania and was well ahead any of its other neighbors (excluding Kentucky).

As more and more states allowed its tracks to install casino-style gaming, the breeding totals in Ohio began to plummet. In 2009, the state is in danger of breeding fewer than 200 mares, a figure that would have seemed unheard of less than a decade ago.

Other states in the region without any forms of alternative wagering, Illinois and Michigan, have also seen significant drops as their neighbors reaped the benefits.

Once the cornerstone of the Great Lakes region, Illinois has seen its breeding totals cut in half over the last decade. Michigan’s drop off has been just as drastic, with a decrease of over 40 percent in the last year alone.

As these figures demonstrate, the benefits of installing alternative wagering are quite apparent on the breeding industry of that state. The increased purses and breeder’s incentives make them attractive places for horses to send their mares, which in turn improves the reputation of that state’s racing industry. At the same time, neighboring states without expanded gaming will be adversely affected as its horsemen migrate to states where they can make the most money.

Racinos have the ability to shift the balance of power in a region. It is time for the state of Michigan to decide which side of the scale it wants to sit.

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Michigan breeding totals plummet in 2009

In a stark indicator of racing’s status in the state, early reports indicate the number of Thoroughbred mares bred in Michigan dropped 40.5 percent from 2008 to 2009.

The information is based on the recently released Jockey Club 2009 Report of Mares Bred.

The report encompasses mares bred reports received through Oct. 13, 2009. The Jockey Club notes: “The annual statistics include the number of mares bred to each stallion and represent approximately 92 percent of the mares that eventually will be reported as bred in 2009. According to historical trends, The Jockey Club expects to receive RMBs representing an additional 4,000 to 5,000 mares bred from the 2009 breeding season.”

According to the Jockey Club, 50 Thoroughbred stallions bred 404 mares in 2008. In 2009, those numbers fell to 34 stallions covering 240 mares. The average book per sire also dropped from about eight mares to slightly over seven.

Of the 29 sires who covered mares in both of the last two years, only six saw an increase in their books. The biggest gainer was Diamond Strike, who covered four more mares in 2009 for a total of 13.

Only two sires covered more than 20 mares this breeding season; Meadow Prayer (27) and Equality (21) – down from five in 2008.

One obvious cause for the decrease in mares bred is the success and lure of nearby states with casino gaming and other alternative wagering. While the breeding industry faced a downward national trend, Pennsylvania’s program surged to a 29.6 percent gain in 2009. Indiana is another racino states within a close proximity to Michigan that has seen its mare population spike in recent years.

With slots-enriched purses and lucrative breeding programs, many Michigan horsemen who have stalls at tracks in racino states also take their mares to capitalize on state-bred incentives.

Another less tangible reason for the steep decline could be a lack in confidence following the release of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s 2010 Executive Budget in February. In the budget, Granholm proposed major cuts to the Ag Equine Development Fund, most notably slashing all owner’s and breeder’s incentives.

An announcement of that caliber, made in the heart of breeding season, could justifiably make breeders think about looking elsewhere or simply letting their mares go empty for a season until things shake out. The funding was partially restored later (though it still remains in limbo), but by then breeding season had already come and gone

The effects of what will likely be a historically small foal crop in Michigan will first be felt at the yearling sales. Two years from now, when today’s statistics are tomorrow’s yearlings, the pool to fill the catalog will be smaller than ever. This year’s sale was half the size of last year’s. One can only imagine what the catalog might look like with a fraction of the yearlings to draw from.

In the long term, the small crop could have implications on future field sizes at Pinnacle Race Course. Restricted two and three-year-old races, especially the Sire Stakes, will likely be harder to fill. This may, however work to the advantage of those who decided to breed and buy Michigan-breds, as the competition for purse money will be thinner than ever. If, by some divine stroke of luck, the racino issue passes, these people will be in on the ground floor to immediately benefit. The demand may also drive up the sale value of foals in this crop as well.

Clearly, it would be hard to consider the staggering drop in mares bred to be anything but a negative sign. When business is good, people get their mares bred. When business is bad, they don’t. It will be interesting to see how this crop will affect the racing industry in the coming years and how the breeding industry will respond next year.

For more information on the decline in mares bred, I have compiled a spreadsheet focusing on Michigan sires over the last two years. The Jockey Club doesn’t have a “sort by state” function, so I have done all the hunting for you.

Mares Bred by Michigan Sires, 2008-09

For more facts and figures regarding Michigan’s breeding program in recent years, I have compiled another spreadsheet with data from the previous two breeding seasons. I was saving it for another post that was in the works, but it fits here just as well.

Michigan Breeding Statistics, 2007-08; 2008-09

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