I have always been fascinated with excellence and was recently asked about states that have exceptional breeding results. To answer the question, I went to my spreadsheets and surprisingly found that since 2010 only 3 major breeding states with declining purses have actually increased their number of state bred racing starts. Those states, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Louisiana, have collectively seen their state bred starts increase by 26.7%, while amazingly their purses declined by 4.6%!
Why should I or other horse people be fascinated by this? Because over this same period of time, the industry saw huge declines in state bred starts and increased their purses! For example, the big 3 breeding states of Kentucky, Florida and California saw their average state bred starts decline of 29.0% while they increased purses 15.6%. Interestingly, Minnesota saw state bred starts decline 27.0% while increasing purses by a massive rate of 96.0%, due to the 2012 Mystic Lake deal, during this same time period.
Indiana, Pennsylvania and Louisiana had shockingly fascinating results. Why did the breeding results in these 3 states stand out so dramatically? The answer was simpler than I imagined. They were smart enough to realize that if they economically invested in breeding, far beyond the rest of the industry, they could build a nearly captive racing population of state bred horses to run at their state’s racetracks.
So how do these 3 excellent state breeding models stack up? According to the Jockey Club 2015 State Fact Books, the Indiana, Pennsylvania and Louisiana purses paid to state bred horses, represented over half of their total purses paid out! Their non-weighted average percentage payment of total purses paid to state bred horses was 51.4%! By comparison, Minnesota only paid 31.0% of total purses paid out to their state bred horses in 2015. (Even near competitive states like Iowa, Illinois and Oklahoma pay 47% or higher.)
Indiana, Pennsylvania and Louisiana also improved their legislation related to Thoroughbred breeding incentive programs. They guarantee many things. From purse payment percentages, to overnight state bred race counts, to guaranteed stake races and even out of state breeders fund payments for state breds that win in other states (IN/LA), their incentive programs create real incentives!
For placing in state races, Pennsylvania pays up to 40%, Indiana pays 20%, and Louisiana pays 18% of qualified purses earned to state breeders as an incentive award. By comparison Minnesota guarantees nothing, but does calculate and pay a breeding incentive AFTER all racing is done. This of course makes the term “breeding incentive” an oxymoron. Over the last decade, Minnesota payments have been as low as 3.9% of qualified purses in 2012, and were 7.6% last year in 2016.
So there you have it. There are states that buck national breeding trends in spite declining purses! They do it by utilizing an entirely different model than we utilize in Minnesota. They pour available purse funds and incentives toward their state’s “agricultural” breeding economy.
As we now enter 2017 and another breeding season, Minnesota horse owner residents, Minnesota breeder residents and Minnesota breeding businesses might be as fascinated as I am with how excellent breeding systems work. Why? Because in today's real world, “You must expose your vulnerabilities to patch them”!
Dave Astar is a race horse owner, stallion owner, breeder, 40 year business executive, and 50 year handicapper.