At the beginning of the year, I posed five questions about racing in Michigan to consider for the following year. Now that the year is almost over, it is time to look back at those questions and see how they were answered.
#1 – Who will be the breakout sire of 2009?
The Answer: In the original post, I singled out The Deputy (Ire) as a sire who could make some noise when his first crop as a Michigan-based stallion hit the track. As it turns out, I was right and wrong. The Deputy was the leading national earner among all Michigan sires who fit my criteria as a breakout candidate – sires considered “new”, “unproven” or in The Deputy’s case “new to Michigan”. However, he made most of his money in West Virginia.
The Petardia (GB) stallion ranked eighth in West Virginia by juvenile earnings with $62,178, highlighted by Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes runner-up Kid Kearny Gabe. The Deputy only sent three juvenile starters to the gates in Michigan to finish 29th in juvenile earnings, with no Michigan-bred stakes starters. However, the West Virginia contingent did show up to represent The Deputy in the Sire Stakes. Kid Kearny Gabe stepped up once again to finish second in the two-year-old males division of the fall classic.
When considering Michigan sires with success in Michigan, the label “breakout sire of ’09” would probably best fit Secret Romeo. The Service Stripe horse sired his first stakes winner when Romeo Again won the three-year-old males division of the Sire Stakes on his way to earning a share of the division’s top honors.
Secret Romeo ranked seventh in general earnings for Michigan-breds in 2009 with $159,612. His second crop hit the track in 2009.
#2 – How will Mr. Conclusive follow up on his dominant 2008 campaign?
The Answer: Not so hot. After a tumultuous winter and a long layoff, Mr. Conclusive missed the board in three starts during his 2009 campaign. Hopefully he can get it turned around for 2010.
#3 – Whose Sire Stakes streak will stay alive – Valley Loot or Meadow Vespers?
The Answer: At the beginning of the year, I predicted that Valley Loot would have a smoother road to a third consecutive Sire Stakes win based on the strength of her division and the quality of graduating three-year-olds she would face in 2009.
After an amazing four year streak that spanned two racetracks and two divisions, Meadow Vespers’ signature closing kick came up empty in the older males division to snap his run. Meadow Vespers, a seven-year-old Meadow Prayer gelding, finished fifth in that race to Bipolar Express, one of the previously mentioned newcomers to the division.
Valley Loot, on the other hand, kept her streak alive with a 1 1/2 length score in the older mares division. The five-year-old Demaloot Demashoot mare also tallied her third straight Michigan Horse of the Year honors in 2009. Can she keep that streak going? That will be a question for 2010.
#4 – What will be new at Pinnacle Race Course?
The Answer: In terms of planned Phase Two developments, nothing much. The economic situation of the state, the track and the racing industry understandably made it difficult to expand at this time.
However, the track did make a small, but significant addition that made a day at the races much more enjoyable. The festival tent in in the grandstand area was a big step up from the temporary bleachers that occupied the space in 2008. Aside from providing some much-needed shade and protection from the elements, the additional tables, TV screens and mutuel windows it provided made it much more worthwhile to watch the races from that end of the track. Kudos to whoever came up with that idea.
#5 – How much of a difference will a few extra weeks of pre-meet training make?
The Answer: One of the issues many attributed to the field sizes in 2008 was that Pinnacle did not open up for training until a few days before opening day. A constant stream of heavy rains kept Pinnacle from opening the track, which lowered the number of race-ready horses when the meet began. This year, there were no delays.
The effect this extra time had on the field sizes at Pinnacle is hard to determine. In 2008, it seemed as though the fields were either really big or really small. In 2009, the number was more consistent, but it meant more six or seven horse fields – enough to play most exotics, but not enough to give them the kind of payoffs that make them lucrative. We’ll call this one a push.
Look for the Burning Questions for 2010 in the coming weeks.
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.
Filed under Commentary
Tagged as Baptistry, Comedy Show, Diamond Strike, Equality, Jockey Club, Mares Bred, Meadow Prayer, Michigan Thoroughbred Breeding Industry, The Deputy (Ire)