The Thoroughbred breeding season is once again upon us and folks are asking where to breed. Each state competes with other states for breeding, and each state tries to attract breeders in unique and different ways.
Some states advertise and focus on the actual act of breeding, providing incentives that attract mare owners to bring their mares to a state and breed those mares to state standing stallions. Others ignore the true breeding definition and only try to attract mare owners to “foal out” or birth their foals in their state. Of course, some states concentrate on both breeding related issues.
As a result of the highly divergent breeding program strategies, each state provides incentives in variable ways. Some offer substantial “guaranteed” percentage payments. Some require both true breeding and foaling in the state at varying intervals. Others guarantee several state bred restricted races per race day.
After reviewing the most recently available Jockey Club State Fact Books for every state that produced a minimum of 200 foals per year, I suggest the “where to breed or foal” question should be an economic one, with three guiding issues to explore:
1. What incentives exist for breeders? At the bottom of this article, you will find a public guide to state breeding programs published by the DRF. This is the best "comparative" guide I can find.
2. How much will my horse earn in state purses by racing in their restricted state bred racing program? Do the states have several guaranteed restricted races per day or per season? Is their season long enough, possibly at multiple in state tracks, to allow state bred horses to get several state bred restricted race starts? The average earnings per state bred starter were over $20,000 in KY, NY, PA, MA and OH. Additionally, they were between $15,000 and $20,000 in IL, IN, CA, IA and WV. All other states fall below the $15,000 figure.
3. How much can I sell my bred horse for? Both KY and NY exceeded $30,000 in mean average sale price based again on the most recent Jockey Club data. Only PA, WV, AR, and MA had mean average sale prices between $10,000 and $20,000, and only FL, WA and IN had a mean average between $7,500 and $10,000.
So, the answer to the “where to breed and foal” question depends on your agenda as a breeder. If you breed to race, the incentives and average earnings potential matter. If you breed to sell, the incentives and the mean average sale price matters, though sale price is substantially driven by earnings potential. I also think that even after incentives are earned by breeders, the minimum mean average earnings need to be over $15,000 for horse owners, and the minimum mean average sale price needs to be $7,500 …… just to approach break even economics.
Anyway, I hope this outline and the attachment will help guide breeders looking to select the best breeding and foaling economic environment available this upcoming breeding season. Best of luck to all.
Dave Astar is a race horse owner, stallion owner, breeder, 40 year business executive, and 50 year handicapper.