Though pari-mutuel Thoroughbred racing began in Delaware in 1937, the state has never had a breeding program, and only a handful of horse farms.
The Standardbred breeding program was revived in Delaware soon after racetrack gaming began in the mid-1990s. Now, the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association has devised a program that will contribute to the state's agricultural base and pay horsemen for their participation.
The Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program isn't a state-bred program, but it serves a similar purpose. It will reward horsemen who board horses at Delaware farms or training centers for at least 90 days prior to March 30 of their 2-year-old season, and subsequently race them at Delaware Park.
The horsemen's organization has committed $500,000 each year for the program through 2005. Beginning in 2003, certifiers and owners will earn 10% of the purse if a Delaware Certified Thoroughbred finishes first, second, or third in races other than stakes.
Since the mid-1990s, the racing program at Delaware Park has blossomed. Purses now average about $275,000 a day.
Delaware THA president Bessie Gruwell said the program is possible through revenue generated by the Horse Racing Redevelopment Act of 1994, which legalized slot machines at the state's three racetracks. The incentive program is a pilot program that will be reviewed each year, she said.
A certifier or a certifier's authorized agent must complete an application form available from the Delaware THA. Horses will be certified at the completion of the three-month residency requirement.
Delaware Certified Thoroughbreds will be identified in the official program each racing day. They also will be identified in catalogues at weanling, yearling, and 2-year-old in-training sales.