Tag Archives: Breeding

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


Filed under Commentary

The comeback cat

Lee Gates rides Binarebel, a quarter horse sired by Thoroughbred Binalong in the post parade at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

Lee Gates rides Binarebel, a quarter horse sired by Thoroughbred stallion Binalong in the post parade at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

News came out today that recently pensioned sire Storm Cat will make a semi-comeback, artificially inseminating quarter horse mares for $20,000 a pop.

This announcement brings to mind three questions…

1. Why didn’t someone think to do this earlier?

2. How would this change things in both Thoroughbred and quarter horse racing/breeding if the experiment is successful? 

3. Would Walt Disney have gotten a theme park named after himself if his last name was something that didn’t roll off the tongue as easily, like “Blagojevich?”

Okay, the last one really doesn’t have anything to do with the situation at hand, but it is still a worthy question to ponder.

Anyway, I have my doubts about Storm Cat’s chances of duplicating his success on the drag racing circuit.

Though it can hardly be considered an accurate sampling of potential Thoroughbred/quarter horse crosses, the occasional cross-breed will find itself in the gates at Mount Pleasant Meadows. In most instances, the horse will have been sired by a Thoroughbred stallion who I would assume live covered a quarter horse mare.

Of all the instances I have witnessed of cross-breeds racing at Mount Pleasant, I can only recall one finding the winner’s circle – a gelding named Binarebel by local Thoroughbred sire Binalong. This serves quite to the contrary to my general impression of Binalong’s foals, who largely struggled at shorter tracks like Great Lakes Downs, but improved their form at tracks with longer stretches. It will be intriguing to see if Storm Cat’s foals will be able to show that initial burst needed to be successful in the quarter horse ranks after years of progeny bred to run at the classic distances.

It will also be worth keeping track of others following in Storm Cat’s footsteps into artificial breeding when they are no longer able to cover a mare. If he does hit it big and inspires a legion of copy “cats” (ah, puns) to do the same, it will be interesting to see how the quarter horse industry reacts. Will quarter horse stallion owners feel threatened by the potential influx of sires that are not of their kind? 

Perhaps AI to quarter horses could also be used as a last resort for stallions whose foals don’t live up to expectations. Even at a reduced stud fee, the chance to recoup a portion of the money invested in a stallion could be worth keeping him around for a few more years. Who knows? Maybe he just missed his calling.

This way too much speculation over a horse that has only officially impregnated one mare.

In other news, the positive reviews just keep rolling in for the blog you are reading right now. 

As was announced in a previous comment, my last post was chosen to be on Raceday 360’s “Best of the Wire” list, giving me two in a row. My recent Haiku Handicapper post breaking down the Eclipse awards also drew some notoriety from high places, landing on the front page of Equidaily. Thanks largely to that link, my blog’s view total reached an all-time high in recent days. The good folks at Equidaily even got into the game a bit with the link. Have a look…  

Eclipse voters
Might be weeded out
If style trumped


Finally, this is the last call for voting in my Photo of the Year poll.  The winner will be announced and displayed the next time we convene and a new question will be presented for your amusement. See you then.


Filed under Commentary, Mount Pleasant Meadows

Bang for your buck

Success on the racetrack does not always lead to success in the breeding shed. El Aleman, by Point Given, is led around the Keeneland saddling area. 

Success on the racetrack does not always lead to success in the breeding shed. El Aleman, by Point Given, is led around the Keeneland saddling area.

Word came out yesterday that Curlin will stand at Lane’s End in Kentucky for a $75,000 stud fee.

When news like this comes with hard numbers, it is pretty safe to assume the horse in question is probably done racing. I guess no one could provide Jess Jackson with the “appropriate venue and purse” he was looking for. There goes my post-Thanksgiving farewell excursion to Churchill Downs.

Oh well. I’ll probably still end up reviving the Haiku Handicapper for the Clark Handicap (G2) regardless. I have to have some kind of product to put out there to keep things fresh and interesting during the slow winter months. 

Anyway, back to the business at hand. I was a bit surprised at the tag set for Curlin’s inaugural year in the breeding shed. It is understood that times are tough in the economy and he has proven nothing yet as a sire, but for a horse with his accolades and bloodlines, $75,000 seems a tad low.

To put it in perspective, Street Sense, a fellow 2004 foal who retired as a three-year-old, stood for the same price in his first season. Sure, one could give the argument that Street Sense ran huge as a two year old while Curlin did not even start and the case could be made that Darley may have been capitalizing on the fact that Street Sense is by a hot sire, Street Cry (Ire), but the fact remains that Curlin holds the advantage in career wins, money earned and perhaps most importantly, head-to-head matchups (2-1). This alone should put Curlin at least a couple thousand bucks ahead of his old foe.

Then again, we have the example of dual classic winner Smarty Jones, who began his stallion career with a tag of $100,000 after finishing no worse than second in a roughly seven month long racing career. Though a sire can not be defined by a single crop, Smarty’s first career winner came in Puerto Rico. Not exactly a hotbed for up and coming juveniles. He has sired one Grade 1-placed foal from his freshman crop, which is more than most can claim, but on the whole, Smarty Jones has yet to live up to the hype that followed him into the Three Chimneys stud barn.

With all of this in mind, I began to look back at the initial stud fees of other high-profile horses in recent years to see how the newest big names to go to the breeding shed stack up. Then, I compared those figures to their current stud fees to see how things have changed. Have a look for yourself…

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Filed under Commentary