The Jockey Club board of stewards will consider instituting a rule to limit the number of mares a stallion may breed, starting with the 2021 breeding season, the organization announced this morning in a press release. The release said that the board of stewards was “concerned with the narrowing of the diversity of the Thoroughbred gene pool.”
The announcement was immediately met with a chorus of support and consternation on social media.
The Jockey Club, established in 1894, is the keeper of the American Stud Book and maintains the Principal Rules and Requirements of the American Studbook.
The release said that the board of stewards of The Jockey Club is considering a cap of 140 mares bred per individual stallion per calendar year in North America, phased-in as follows:
• Stallions entering stud service for the first time in 2020 would be exempt from the 140 limit through the 2023 season
• Stallions that entered stud service in 2019 would be exempt through the 2022 season
• Stallions that entered stud service in 2018 would be exempt through the 2021 season
• Stallions that entered service in 2017 or prior would be subject to the 140 cap as of January 1, 2021
The release went on to point out that the size of the North American foal crop has diminished significantly, from 37,499 in 2007 to the 20,500 estimated for 2020.
They also published the following statistics:
- In 2007, 37 stallions reported in excess of 140 mares bred each from a total of 3,865 stallions. By 2010, that number had declined to 24. Since then, the number has nearly doubled to 43 stallions reporting 140 or more mares bred from a population of stallions that now stands at less than one-half that of 2007.
- On the mare side, in 2007, 5,894 mares (9.5% of the total) were bred by stallions that covered more than 140 mares. By 2019, 7,415 mares (27% of the total) were covered by stallions with books of more than 140, a threefold increase.
“The combination of these changes has resulted in a substantial increase in the percentage of foals produced by a discreet segment of stallions — signaling a worrisome concentration of the gene pool,” the press release reads. “The stewards will continue to study the decreasing diversity of the Thoroughbred gene pool and its cause and potential effects over the course of time. As more data and analyses become available, the stewards may revise The Jockey Club’s approach to protecting the breed’s health and welfare.”
The organization said that the group “solicits and welcomes comments on the proposed rule from breeders, owners, and others with interests in the Thoroughbred breed and the industry.”
Ned Toffey, the general manager of Spendthrift Farm, said that Spendthrift would, indeed, be letting them know their position. In 2018, for the second consecutive year, Spendthrift’s Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday) led the continent in terms of individual covers, with 245. In 2017, he covered 235 mares.
“We’re disappointed that The Jockey Club is thinking about going in this direction,” said Toffey. “They will certainly hear from us. What’s next, do they start saying which stallions are allowed to stand at stud? I think it’s a slippery slope. It’s un-American. I think it’s restraint of trade. We’re big believers that you let the market decide what they want to breed to.
“We obviously breed substantial numbers, so this would affect the way we do things. I don’t think that it’s as simple as limiting a stallion’s book to solve the problems with the gene pool. The effect that I would see this as having is it would make a handful of horses really, really expensive. While Into Mischief may be out of a lot of people’s price range, if you limit his book we’ve got to make up that [lost stud fee revenue] by putting him up to $300,000-plus [stud fee]. And we’d have to do that across the board with a lot of our horses. That would be hard on a lot of breeders, and it makes it that much harder to make sense of all of this stuff.
“If you’re concerned about diversity in the gene pool, we offer that too—we’ve got 26 stallions. We’re out here giving as many horses a chance as we can. I think that’s how you handle genetic diversity, not by saying you can only do so much business.”
Toffey was asked if the announcement had come as a surprise to Spendthrift.
“We’ve been hearing some rumblings about this,” he said, “although nobody from The Jockey Club has approached us about it. Nobody has ever made an attempt to sit down and have any kind of meaningful conversation with us. And I think it’s disappointing that they would start floating an idea like this without having spoken to us.”
Other breeders expressed support for the measure. Craig Bernick, president of Glen Hill Farm, said he felt that if it comes to pass, it would be a positive step.
“I think if they can get it through it will be very positive for the business as a whole,” he said. “With the declining foal crop and racetracks closing and handle going down, we need to find ways for horses to stay around longer, and [to] breed sounder horses for the racetrack instead of just the sales ring. So many of the horses who’ve bred more than 140 mares are completely unproven as breeding stallions. As a breeder, if you want to breed to a $20,000 or $40,000 type of horse because that’s the level of mare you have, there aren’t a lot of proven options, so you’re breeding to an unproven horse. I think this will keep a lot of the horses around that are useful, so personally I’m all for it.
“The sought-after stallions, [if] they have a limited book, I’m sure that their stud fees will go up. But there are plenty of good stallions, and the trickle-down effect to horses that can get you runners, I think is going to be great, so I hope they get it through. “There are people for it, for good reason, and frankly, plenty of people against it for good reasons pertaining to their businesses that they’ve invested tons of money in. They have a model to make money, and they’d have to change it.”
Others agreed with the theory, but not the method.
Headley Bell, President of Nicoma Bloodstock and a managing partner at Mill Ridge Farm, both breeds and boards mares, and stands a stallion, Oscar Performance.
“For our syndicate with Oscar Performance, we actually wrote into it that we were going to limit him to 140 mares,” said Bell. “So we believe in that. But personally, I believe in free markets, and markets should really direct and dictate things. I appreciate what The Jockey Club and a number of farms are trying to do, but I think it needs to be up to individuals to [establish stallion limits]. If that’s what the farm wants to do, let them direct that. We’ve declared [our intent] essentially at Mill Ridge. Rather than coming as a doctrine from The Jockey Club, it should be up to the industry and farms to declare that.
“As a breeder, you can choose [which stallions you select] and by that you can declare what you want to believe. Let the breeder make that choice whether they want to support [limits] or not. But for me to tell the entire industry to do that, that’s a little more restrictive than I think our economy should be.” (fonte : TDN)