Ky. stallions, mares hard at work: Foal numbers up almost 3 percent

A new Jockey Club report states that Kentucky continues to lead other state in Thoroughbred breeding.
A new Jockey Club report states that Kentucky continues to lead other state in Thoroughbred breeding. Herald-Leader

Kentucky continues to lead all other states by far in Thoroughbred breeding, according to the Jockey Club, the breed registry.

According to reports of live foals received so far this year, there were 21,991 foals born nationally, a .5 percent decrease from the same time last year. The 2016 registered foal crop is projected to be 22,500 after all births have been reported.

However, in Kentucky, the number of live foals is up 2.79 percent, from 11,853 last year to 12,184 so far this year. The number of mares bred to Kentucky stallions in 2015 also was up 3 percent compared with 2014.

Only Ontario and Texas, which breed in far smaller numbers than Kentucky, also reported increases.

According to the Jockey Club, Kentucky accounted for 47.6 percent of the mares reported bred in North America in 2015, and 55.4 percent of the live foals reported so far for 2016.

Nationally, the number of mares bred in 2015 dropped 0.7 percent, and the number of active stallions dropped 8.6 percent.

For years, proponents of expanded gambling expressed fears that casinos at racetracks in other states would boost incentives that would lure mares and eventually stallions away from Kentucky, which only has historical racing machines at a limited number of tracks.

But the Jockey Club statistics show that, except for a slight dip from 2002 to 2004, when the state’s foal crop was reduced by the deaths of thousands of foals from Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome, the state’s share of breeding has made gains.

In 1995, when Kentucky stallions bred to 15,712 mares, the state accounted for 26.6 percent of the activity in North America. In 2015, Kentucky stallions bred to 17,265 mares, 48.8 percent of all in North America.

Kentucky’s share has increased, but the overall level of North American Thoroughbred breeding activity has contracted sharply: in 1995, there were about 35,000 foals, compared with the 22,500 expected this year.