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Michigan Notebook: January 19, 2011

– The Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association is hosting its annual Stallion Season Auction on Tuesday, Jan. 25. Bidding will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This year’s auction features seasons from some of the best sires Michigan has to offer. Perennial leaders such as Demaloot Demashoot, Elusive Hour, Syncline and the state’s 2010 stallion of the year Equality will have seasons up for bids, along with up-and-comers like Fire Blitz, Comedy Show, Monetary Star and Gainango. The sale also features out-of-state sires from Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Loiusiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

For more information on the auction, and for a constantly updating list of the sires involved, click here.

– The Michigan HBPA board has voted to focus negotiations for the 2011 Thoroughbred meet on Pinnacle Race Course for the time being. From the Michigan HBPA website

The Michigan HBPA board met Tuesday to discuss the 2011 live season, during the meeting the board took a “straw poll” as to what track they preferred to have the 2011 meet. The board moved to prefer Pinnacle and work through the issues until March 1, 2011 and pursue other options at that time, if necessary.

– MTOBA has rolled out a multi-pronged effort to increase its web presence. The organization recently opened up a Facebook fan page and Twitter account to go along with it’s redesigned website. Be sure to include Michigan’s Thoroughbred owners and breeders in your social networking endeavors.

– Voting for the Michigan-Bred Claimer Photo of the Year poll is still open and will remain so through the end of the month. The clubhouse leader is photo #18, titled “Affection”, depicting newly-crowned Horse of the Year Zenyatta and her groom Mario Espinoza in the Churchill Downs shedrow. If you agree with that outcome and want to lock it down, or if you think another photo is more deserving, the cutoff date is sometime during Feb. 1. Don’t get shut out!

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Michigan mares bred totals down in 2010

The Jockey Club reports the number of Thoroughbred mares bred in Michigan, a key indicator of a state racing industry’s health, was cut almost in half from last year.

Preliminary figures recently released by the Jockey Club indicate 152 mares were covered by Michigan sires in 2010, a 49% decrease from the 2009 total of 297.

To view a sire-by-sire comparison of mares covered in Michigan over the last two seasons, click here.

Before discussing the figures in detail, it must be noted that the 2010 numbers are based on reports received on or prior to October 13, and several thousand more reports are expected to come in later, undoubtedly some of those from Michigan. Last year, several Michigan sires were unreported in the initial Jockey Club release, but appeared in the foaling report statistics some months later.

To put it in a better perspective, last year’s preliminary report tallied 240 mares bred by Michigan sires, which constitutes a 37% drop between this year and last. Assuming there is a similar proportion of stragglers to turn in reports, (and judging by some of the notable no-shows on the list there should be a few), the final total should be higher, but still signify a major drop.

From the figures provided, only nine of the 27 Michigan sires to cover a mare in 2010 had a book of five or more.

Arnold Farm’s Meadow Prayer, who died over the summer, led all Michigan sires with 25 mares covered. The Meadowlake horse currently leads the state in Michigan-bred stakes wins (four) and stakes winners (three).

Hubel Farm’s The Deputy (IRE), by Petardia (GB), was second with 18 mares, followed by Comedy Show (Distorted Humor, 16), Equality (Mt. Livermore, 15) and Diamond Strike (Allens Prospect, 14) to round out the top five.

Baptistry, standing at Sprintland Training Center, was the only horse to see an increase of more than two mares from 2009, going from two mares to five in 2010. Of the sires to report mares bred in both years, Equality and Syncline took the biggest dips, both breeding six fewer mares.

The reasons for the decline are not very different from last year, just given more time to fester; ever-increasing competition from surrounding racino states, an unstable climate in the State Capitol, a decrease in race dates and declining purses to keep the dates that were run. Pinnacle Race Course’s highly scrutinized situation with its creditors and local government adds another element of uncertainty to the situation.

Below are a couple charts showing how Michigan’s breeding totals stand up against other states, and against history. Click on the charts for an enlarged view.

Mares Bred in the Great Lakes Region, 1991-2010

X Axis = Year; Y Axis = Mares Bred

Consistent with previous years, the top three states on the list feature casino gaming, while those who are behind the curve are sputtering. A fun-size candy bar goes out to anyone who ever imagined Minnesota would breed more mares than both Ohio and Michigan. Ten years ago, that thought would have been inconceivable.

While looking through the figures, I decided to also examine whether expanded gaming had an effect on the number of sires standing a given state. Below are my findings…

Stallions Covering Mares in the Great Lakes Region 1991-2010

X Axis = Year; Y Axis = Stallions Covering Mares

An interesting wrinkle of racino states is that they do not appear to guarantee a significantly greater stallion population once expanded gaming is implemented. What it does change, however, is the quality of stallions standing in the state.

Consider Indiana’s state-bred program, which emphasizes success in open competition instead of state-restricted fields. Because Indiana-breds must succeed against open fields, namely Kentucky-breds, to earn the most lucrative incentives, many farms must trade up from state-level sires to regional-level ones. The quantity of sires may remain steady, but the quality spikes. With lingering concerns about whether racinos actually lead to an improvement of the breed, it appears Indiana has found a way to at least point the state in a good direction.

To view the detailed spreadsheets for the above charts, click here.

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