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Foal crop will decline 10% in 2011, Jockey Club says

The Thoroughbred foal crop, on decline for the past five years, is expected to fall an additional 10 percent in 2011.

The Jockey Club on Saturday predicted a 2011 foal crop of 27,000, the smallest North American crop since 1973, when 26,811 foals were registered.

The prediction is based on reports, due by Aug. 1 of mares bred. The numbers are considered preliminary. In September, The Jockey Club will release numbers of foals born in 2010, with state-by-state figures, based on foals registered. The 2010 crop is estimated to be 30,000.

With 3,000 fewer foals expected next year, the decline in total number and in percentage is less than the 2010 drop of 4,000 foals (11.8 percent).

The numbers were released a day before the annual Jockey Club Round Table discussion, held Sunday at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

At the Round Table, industry executives discussed trends in racing, including the shrinking racehorse crop.

James Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, noted that there might be a silver lining to such statistics — a flight to quality.

The numbers might be dropping, he said, "but we suspect we will have better foals and better racing."

The Thoroughbred racing and breeding industries have been facing contraction because of economic downturns — less wagering leads to smaller purses, which attract fewer horses. The buying market fell off sharply in the past two years, and breeding has followed suit.

Tracks have tried various ways to cope. Many have boosted purses with money from slots, video lottery terminals or casino gambling. Others have cut days of racing.

Some have done both. Monmouth Park in New Jersey conducted a reduced meet this summer but with greatly increased purses enhanced by a supplement from casinos.

That experiment was enormously successful, said Dennis Robinson, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority which owns Monmouth.

"We've had one heck of a summer at Monmouth Park," Robinson told the Round Table. Total wagering is up 113 percent, he said. "Our bottom line has improved substantially as well," he said.

The effort, dubbed the Elite Meet, also has caused a dramatic increase in numbers of horses claimed (purchased) in claiming races, with a consequent increase in new owners and in sales tax revenue, he said.

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