John R. Gaines, the Thoroughbred breeder who developed Gainesway Farm into a top commercial entity and was the originator of the Breeders' Cup program, is calling for the state of Kentucky to develop an economic incentive plan to help the horse industry.
"We need a strategically driven economic development plan to reward the farms that are here, to bring new stallions here, and to bring new farms here," Gaines said June 14 when interviewed as part of the public affairs program "Comment on Kentucky" that aired on the Kentucky Education Television network.
Gaines recommended steps that should be taken by Gov. Paul Patton and the state legislature, with cooperation from the industry, including the appointment of a task force to study the horse industry.
"We need to have the governor appoint a task force to address every issue in the sport, from casino gambling to slot machines at the racetracks," Gaines said. "Everything across the spectrum needs to be put on top of the table and taken a look at."
Citing examples of how Kentucky has offered economic incentives to lure other businesses--including a large expenditure to attract the Toyota manufacturing plant--Gaines said a similar commitment should be made to the horse industry. The horseman cited statistics showing Kentucky is last among major horse racing and breeding states in providing monetary incentives, noting that the state could lose business to competing states. The horse industry provides a $3.5-billion economic benefit (including ancillary businesses) to the state, Gaines said.
"Kentucky has been very negligent in not developing the economic development of the horse industry, that rewards the people who are here and attracts new owners, new breeders, and new stallions to the commonwealth," Gaines said. 'We need to figure out how to finance this, because it is not a bailout, but an investment."
Also interviewed by program host Al Smith was Jim Squires, the former Chicago newspaper editor whose small Thoroughbred farm bred this year's Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.
Squires cited the difficulty of trying to make a profit in the breeding industry and said there is a common misconception about who is involved in the business.
"There is a great tragedy in this industry and that is that the general perception of the Thoroughbred horse industry is that it is something for gamblers and rich dilettantes," Squires said. "In fact, most people in this business are addicted horse lovers who are operating normal, ancillary businesses depending on the 'gamblers and rich dilettantes,' if that is what they are."
"I think it is sort of nauseating to see so-called 'millionaire horsemen' demonized," Gaines said. "If we didn't have the stallions brought here by these major players, we wouldn't have a horse industry at all. These so-called 'millionaire horsemen' have created a 400,000-acre natural park that brings millions of people here...and these horsemen should be revered as the greatest stewards of the land that any community in the world would love to have..."
Gaines and Squires both addressed potential financial crises faced by many Kentucky horse breeders as a result of the Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome. However, they emphasized that the call for an economic assessment of the horse industry, primarily Thoroughbred racing and breeding, is not directly related to the syndrome outbreak.
"I have never been in a business this tough," Squires said. "I don't even know how you can construct a business plan...that you could sell to an investor, mainly because of unpredictable consequences and the tremendously fragile nature that this foal crisis points out dramatically."
Gaines drew a parallel between the foal crisis and the energy crisis in California.
"The reason the energy shortage is there is because there has never been developed a strategic plan to deal with what is necessary to be dealt with," Gaines said. "We need to take this crisis and turn it into an opportunity."