The Jockey Club’s 2020 Mare-Cap

June 26, 2020

Bolt d’Oro – Standing at Spendthrift Farms

In recent months, the Jockey Club issued a statement regarding the number of mares permitted into a breeding stallion’s book per year at stud. The statement, released on May 7, states that, “The total number of broodmares bred per individual stallion whose year of birth is 2020 or thereafter shall not exceed 140 per calendar year in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The jockey Club shall limit the number of stallion Service Certificates for such stallions to a maximum of 140 per calendar year.”

Limiting each stallion’s yearly itinerary of mares bred will ideally encourage the multiplicity and longevity of the breed and sport in coming years. By excluding ‘excess’ mares of less genetic quality from accessing the top breeding stallions on the market simply due to the lack of space in their seasonal books–ideally taken up by mares with the best matching genetic makeup–the resulting foals will be of higher quality, supporting the durability and caliber of future crops produced. The adage of horse racing has always been ‘breed the best to the best and hope for the best,’ which is precisely the motive of the cap issued by the Jockey Club.

Walker Hancock of Claiborne Farm is one of many supporters of the mare cap, saying in a statement to BloodHorse, “There are a lot of positives I think that will come of this, even though we won’t see those benefits for ten years or so. This is a long-term plan. The sustainability of our industry is what’s important.

“I can see how this decision can benefit the industry at this point in time by increasing diversity and spreading the wealth of mares,” said Brian Graves, general manager of Gainesway.

However, among the supporters of the mare cap is the audible indignation from multiple upstanding members of the thoroughbred community. With the positive backing from so many within the industry and a solid case bolstering the decision, what is it that makes the mare cap marginally controversial?

While the long-term genetic benefits for the breed is a logical goal as a whole, small-scale breeders and supporting farms that cater to the needs of the average customer are fearful of the implications for their businesses in coming years. While the highest quality mares in the market will be filling the majority of future stallion’s books, the lower-tiered mares owned by smaller breeders and operations may see very real challenges due to lack of stallion access. Breeders of these mares would face intense competition to book their mares for the season, meaning loss of crop numbers and funding for their operations. Ned Toffey of Spendthrift Farm, one of the most inclusive stallion operations for small business breeders, said in a statement in September of last year, “If you were to reduce Into Mischief’s book, his becomes a very expensive stud fee, and the way it is now works for a lot of smaller breeders.”

The impact on the industry’s economy and hurdles for breeders are the largest concerns of many, however, while the economic impact of establishments associated with the Jockey Club is under scrutiny by many, new opportunities for shuttling stallions may blossom as a result. South America’s breeding industry, not under ruling by the Jockey Club, may see a boom in popularity due to the lack of income from stallions in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Shuttling stallions overseas for a greater scope of mares bred per year may become a more common theme among stallion farms in coming years, currently being of typical practice in the present breeding climate.

“The real winner in this might be the shuttle marketplace because of that gap in income. You can make it up in the Southern Hemisphere,” said John Sikura of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms.

With plans set into motion for stallions entering the market in as early as three years, the industry will not only be facing new challenges, but new opportunities. “The Jockey Club is grateful for the many thoughtful comments in response to its September rule proposal,” said the Jockey Club registry. “The stewards carefully considered those comments in formulating a rule that will promote diversity of the thoroughbred gene pool and protect the long term health of the breed.”

By: Leila Elliott

@jonathanstettin I had goosebumps reading that. Excellent work, thank you for sharing!

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