Ohio Foal Crop Sends Troubling Message

The continuing decline in foal crops in Ohio has led the horse racing industry to step up lobbying for assistance from the state legislature.

A 47% decline in Thoroughbred foal production the past 10 years is expected to continue in 2007, with low mid-year foal registrations a troubling sign, officials said. Standardbred breeders expect a similar decline,
Thoroughbred foal registrations dropped from 611 foals in 1997 to 292 in 2006, and production is expected to remain flat this year, according to the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners.

This January through July, 38 foals (Ohio-accredited or Ohio-registered) were registered; the figures were similar for the first six months of 2006.

“Thoroughbred breeders have several months before they have to register their foals, but an extremely low number of registrations this time of year tends to indicate the total registrations will also be low,” OTBO president Elisabeth Alexander said in a release. “These numbers don’t surprise me. Raising an Ohio foal doesn’t make any sense when the surrounding states have much better breeding programs than we do.”

Alexander, who owns Eutrophia Farm in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, said one of her stallions has been relocated to Kentucky, largely driven by the drop in Ohio competitiveness. Ohio purses average $7,684 per race, or 26th among the 30 states that allow racing, she said.

Dr. John Mossbarger, past president of the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association and a Standardbred breeder, said his farm’s breeding revenue is down nearly 50% this year. Breeders, he said, have opted to take mares to other states in which gaming revenue fuels purse accounts.

Officials said the defeat of a November 2006 statewide referendum to allow video lottery terminals at the state’s seven racetracks has contributed to the exodus.

Horsemen and racetracks the last several years have teamed to push for expanded gambling but have been unsuccessful. The industry has started a campaign called “Save Ohio Racing” and launched a Web site, saveohioracing.com. The site is designed to educate the public about the state’s horse industry, which is said to employ about 16,000 people and have an economic impact of $730 million. --Tom LaMarra

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