For the first time since 2008, the number of Kentucky-bred foals went up.
According to breeding statistics released Thursday by the Jockey Club, the Thoroughbred breed's registry, last year 15,857 mares were bred to Kentucky stallions, producing at least 11,089 foals this year.
That is an increase of 3.4 percent over the number of Kentucky-bred foals born in 2013, the Jockey Club reported.
Nationally, the numbers appear to confirm that Thoroughbred breeding is stabilizing after the major industry retraction in the wake of the 2008 recession.
"The breeding industry is plateauing, and there is growth returning in pockets," said Chauncey Morris, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. "That's good for Kentucky and good for the sport also. ... Yes, the industry did contract. It also fled to excellence. Your more valuable stallions are standing in Kentucky, and that speaks to the infrastructure here that is the envy of the world."
For North America, the number of live foals is down 1.4 percent, to 21,697; ultimately, the 2014 crop is expected to reach 22,000. The Jockey Club announced in August that it anticipates the 2015 crop will be on par with 2014.
Nationally last year, 2,230 stallions covered 36,656 mares. The number of stallions was down 6.8 percent from 2012 at this time last year, while the number of mares bred decreased 3.3 percent from 2012.
But in Kentucky, the number of mares reported bred to Kentucky stallions in 2013 was up 1.8 percent.
"The decline in mares is not a huge number, but from a Kentucky angle, increasing by 300 mares is very positive," said Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. "We're seeing some states strengthen while others are falling off." Shifting state fortunes from expanded gambling affected the numbers in several states.
Next month, the Jockey Club will release statistics on the numbers of mares and stallions bred this spring.
For Kentucky, the overall size of the foal crop has dropped significantly from more than 15,000 sired here in 2008.
But the state's piece of the breeding pie has continually increased: In 2007, Kentucky accounted for 35.8 percent of the mares bred and 43.5 percent of the live foals in 2008. This year, Kentucky-based stallions accounted for 43.3 percent of the mares bred in 2013 and 51.1 percent of the live foals in 2014.
Three states in the top 10 Thoroughbred breeding states — New York, New Mexico and Texas — had bigger percentage increases in the number of foals sired by their stallions. But they have far fewer stallions and much smaller foal crops.