As the Minnesota Racing Commission commences efforts to open dialogue among Minnesota horse people related to Thoroughbred breeding in the state, it is important to realize that Minnesota breeding has been in consistent decline for over a decade. These facts are irrefutable by any measure. Asking those that oversaw these declines and remained strangely silent during this period, to now come up with ideas to compel Minnesota breeders to enter the fray of competitive breeding is both noble and curious.
Over the last decade, Minnesota Thoroughbred breeding dropped from 314 breedings in 2007 to 131 in 2016, a 58.3% tumble! Shockingly, this occurred during a decade of legitimate available purse money increases. From a base of 9.7 million dollars in 2007 to 13.6 million dollars in 2016, Minnesota saw a 40% increase in available purse funds. This means increases in available purse money did nothing to drive breeding behavior. Instead other less obvious factors were at play as Minnesota declined from 32.4 state breedings bred per million dollars of available purse money, to only 9.6 state breedings per million dollars of available per money. This was a properly indexed 70.4% decline in breeding activity!
Opponents of change in Minnesota are quick to point out that the general breeding industry declined during the last decade, as if that should somehow justify a Minnesota laissez-faire attitude during state record breeding lows realized in both 2015 and 2016. Simply put, while nationwide breeding declines were significant over the last decade, declines were far more severe in Minnesota.
Nationwide breedings dropped from 56,753 in 2007 to 33,603 in 2016, a 40.8% decline compared to the 58.8% Minnesota breeding decline. In contrast to Minnesota however, nationwide available purse money declined from 1.181 billion dollars to 1.084 billion dollars, an 8.2% drop. This means that nationwide breedings per million dollars dropped from 48.1 to 31.0, and the nationwide decade of decline in breedings per million dollars in available purses was essentially half of what was experienced in Minnesota. In other words, properly indexed breeding activity was down nationally 35.6% while Minnesota's was down 70.4%.
I have consistently suggested that we need to look beyond purses as other states have done, and properly evaluate Minnesota state breeding purse distributions, breeding rules/economics, ill-defined or undefinable breeding incentive concepts, breeding quality, the state stallion population and uncompetitive breeding awards. I sincerely wish the MRC well in their effort, and apologize that they as a regulatory body have to lead the "charge of change" that should have been led by Minnesota horse people so very long ago.
Oh, and for the many who still do not understand the English language, this entire article is about the Minnesota “Breeding Economy”, not the Minnesota “Foaling Economy”. They are different things, though few in Minnesota seem to understand the importance of both.
Dave Astar is a race horse owner, stallion owner, breeder, 40 year business executive, and 50 year handicapper.