Lawsuit challenges limiting stallion books

Pretty self-explanatory and interesting. How many mares is enough?

Why is “how many mares is enough” even a question? If Im paying my money, Ill breed to whomever I want, as long as the stallion owner allows. Its not up to the JC to determine where I can breed my mare. They hide behind “genetic diversity”, whereas its about “dollar diversity”. They think if they force this rule, then the 3 or 4 farms breeding all the mares will have to share some of those mares with other farms. The fallacy of this is that people want to make the decision on where they breed their mares, not some organization. The free market is working just fine.

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How does it compare to the AQHA and other breed associations? Do they have limits? Is the purpose to encourage genetic diversity, or to drive the stud fees up? If there wasn’t a limit, wouldn’t the stud fee go down? Would it also run more smaller farms, with stallions in lower demand, out of business?

Question from someone who is clueless on these things - How many mares have the top stallions been bred to typically?

Jockey Club Report of Mares Bred 2020

I’m not going to count them all but Uncle Mo was top of the list at 257 mares bred, followed by Into Mischief at 248. A total of 12 bred over 200 mares.

I would be interested in hearing from those actively breed, racing or otherwise currently active in the industry.

I’m on the fence with thinking if this is a good rule or not. It would be phased it so current stallions wouldn’t be affected, only those born in 2020 or later.

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Thank you @Where_sMyWhite, that was the information I was asking about. Interesting. Those boys work hard it appears.

Yes and no. The sheds don’t usually open until mid-February and you can probably find a bargain in late spring/early summer.

Given that all TBs turn a year old on January 1, it’s nice to have a youngster born in January than it is one born in say, May.

So yes, early in the season the boys will be ‘working’ harder to get mares covered but the farms are skilled enough that often a single cover is sufficient. Pop mom on the trailer, get her to her date on time and back home before baby really noticed :slight_smile:

I’m not sure how I come down on this. On one hand, I’ve bred mares to Munnings, Scat Daddy, Shackleford, Cairo Prince etc so I have been in those big books. The mares got in foal, I had saleable and raceable foals and I don’t kid myself that my mares would have been in the first 140 mares that these stallions bred. Even in the math of big books, whether or not a breeder breaks even depends heavily on luck and also what the mare brings to the table capped off by good husbandry on the back end.

But, in a world where the North American annual foal crop is dipping towards sub 20,000, where just 12 stallions sire over 10 % of the country’s foals and most of those stallions are closely related, that is potentially an enormous genetic bottleneck.

I also don’t think concern for the “little guy” has anything to do with their stance.

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As long as the “breed to sell” crowd is larger than the “breed to race” crowd, limiting stallion book size will destroy the breed. There is such a small number of stallions now that are considered “commercial”; to limit those books will drive those yearling prices sky high, and the rest of the stallions will be a losing proposition, and people wont breed their mares when they know theres no market for them. Theres fewer and fewer buyers of yearlings every year as it is, and buyers are extraordinarily picky in what they want. Not to mention the fact that the racing syndicates are soaring, such that they can buy the uber expensive yearlings. You can’t force what people want to breed to, any more than you can force people what yearlings to buy. There is such a huge chasm now in the yearling market; limiting stallions will make it far worse. Ive always appreciated Pronzini’s posts, but I cant agree with the lack of genetic diversity. It seems like every few years or so there comes a genetically potent stallion like Into Mischief or Uncle Mo to help open up the gene pool. How does limiting a stallions book to 140 help with genetic diversity when a stallion like Tapit has over 30 sons at stud?

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My overall stance is that capping books is a good move, but not without concern of what it will do to breeders in the current climate.

The genetic diversity argument is a tricky one. Thoroughbreds are already so closely related. Genetic diversity is barely a “thing.”

But I do think it’s a problem when the market only wants a handful of stallions, so the solution the free market takes is to breed as many mares as physically possible to those few stallions.

But setting a max isn’t going to make people not want to buy a Tapit, an Into Mischief, etc. You can’t control what buyers want, but buyers can certainly speak by opening (or not opening) their wallets.

If the Jockey Club was truly committed to genetic diversity, they would find a way to offset the breed to sell dependency for breeders. I don’t know how you do that, though. I have ideas but I’m hesitant to share them because breeders don’t want ideas, they want to keep on keeping on the way they have always done things.

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I do realize that not everyone pays the full advertised stud fee, but from Spendthrift’s standpoint, if they could be breeding say 220 mares to Into Mischief, and they can only breed 140, that’s a whole lotta money that they aren’t getting. The issue only affects a small percentage of the stallions that are available nationally. But, for those few with that kind of revenue potential, and especially when those studs might be in the last years of their time at stud, it’s a big deal.If they are able to take this to court, and get a stay of the rule for the duration, it will make a big difference in their bottom line.

Other repercussions will start with the foals born last year. When the champion 3 year old from that crop goes off to stud, the offers from farms for that horse will be waaaaaay waaaaaay less, since they wont be able to recover their initial costs in the first few years at stud.

I see your points and to be honest I’ve taken myself out of the breeding game so its all kind of theoretical to me. I just wish they would have the honesty to say what you are saying instead of wrapping their self interest in some kind of populist flag. As a “little breeder”, I can tell you that I never felt that any of these guys had my back.

Its a war between the old and the new Thoroughbred cultures. I’m old enough to remember when it was scandalous that Alydar bred to 100 mares and Ashford doubled and tripled up on daily covers. Now the Jockey Club is trying to claw back the good ol’ days and the establishment stands firmly in the Ashford camp.

There is also the AI shadow looming over everything. If the Jockey Club can’t restrict breedings because the genetic diversity argument is essentially a dodge for private profits, then how does the Jockey Club mandate the manner in which those breedings are accomplished? If it is not genetic diversity, it is the Kentucky economy that is at issue and why should Thoroughbred breeders in say California care about that when AI would make breeding in California safer and more convenient?

I have to believe that the Jockey Club is not just capitulating to the woke on forums who don’t like the optics of 250 mare books and Southern hemisphere shuttling.

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I agree, Pronzoni. Its a very worrisome rabbit hole that the JC has opened up with this ruling, and theres no telling how deep it will go. I guess the bottom line, for me, is that Im really uncomfortable with an organization starting to tighten the reins with rulings, without those that those rules effect having a say in the process. I have to think its more about concerns of more farms closing down due to no stallion interest than any genetic diversity.

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Maybe not totally unrelated but Skipshot, the stallion which sired Vasilika, is currently listed on an internet sales catalog for a $5000 bid. Apparently Buck Pond couldn’t get any interest from either breeders or investors.

But these ‘big ticket’ stallions covering 150+ mares per season aren’t ‘nationally’ available. They all live in KY and with the live cover ‘requirement’ for JC registration, the mare pretty much needs to be in KY either part time or full time.

I didn’t go completely through the list in detail. What state, not including KY, is the stallion (don’t know ATM) from who covered the most number of mares and how many?

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AQHA lost all lawsuits when the tried to restrict the number of embryos that could be registered out of a mare per year. They never tried to limit numbers bred to a stallion each year, that I’m aware of.

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Modern vet medicine and technology being what it is, a stallion can potentially cover up to 300 mares in a season. Times past, even the most popular would manage about 100 because it was necessary to cover the mare twice or even three times to ensure she caught. So this is recent problem in the centuries of TB breeding. If the number a stallion can cover is limited - inbreeding is a genuine concern - then people will have to use other stallions on their mares, the potentially just as good second and third choices rather than just going for fashion as choice number one. I do think the JC has an obligation to the breed. This does seem to help a broader base of stallion owners.

I would think it is a rare occasion when a breeder’s second or third choice stallion is just as good as their first choice. Otherwise, what why would the first choice horse be on top? Breeders who breed to sell will not breed to stallions whose offspring aren’t popular at the sales because that’s a money losing proposition. Breeders who breed to race won’t breed to stallions who don’t produce good racehorses because what would be the point?

In both instances, the breeder who cannot get to the stallions they want is most likely not to breed at all. That’s not going to help a broader base of stallion owners. Instead, it will cause the foal crop to decline, perhaps dramatically.

Hypothetical question many small TB breeders are currently pondering:
You own a nice mare but your connections aren’t good enough to get her into the book of the stallion you want. It will cost you ~35K (not including stud fee) to get a yearling from that breeding to a sale. Or it will cost you ~60K (not including stud fee) to get a 2yo from that breeding to its first race at 2. Should you breed to a stallion whose offspring you don’t like, or decline to breed at all?

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Hypothetical question: if state incentives were used to subsidize the cost of getting a foal to its first race, do you think more breeders would be inclined to try?

Because I honestly don’t know how thoroughbred racing can survive otherwise with the skyrocketing costs.

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