Numbers Show Benefits of PA-Bred Program

Bonuses, increased funds for restricted races touted by state horse breeders' group.

Pennsylvania-bred Dani's Storm had a pretty good 4-year-old season in 2013 with five wins, two seconds, and three thirds and purse earnings of $214,226.

But that isn't the whole story. Dani's Storm didn't compete in a race restricted to state-bred runners but generated $60,490 in breeders' awards, $20,163 in stallion awards, and $51,096 in owner awards for a bonus of $131,749. Most of the now 5-year-old mare's races were at Parx Racing.

She was claimed from her first start of 2013 for $25,000 by Eliott Krems and trainer Scott Lake. She continued to race for them until she was claimed for $40,000 by Vince Campanella and trainer Keith LeBarron in May of this year.

Dani's Storm, by the Gone West stallion Changeintheweather, was bred by Barbara Rickline's Xanthus Farm in Gettysburg, Pa. The farm was the leading breeding fund award recipient for 2013 with more than $180,000 in breeders' awards, according to the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association.

The PHBA, which held its Iroquois Awards Dinner May 30 at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, honored divisional winners but also made a case for the economic impact of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred breeding program, considered among the best and most lucrative in the country. PHBA president Brian Sanfratello noted this year's program is projected to be worth about $35 million in purses and bonuses, up from $30 million in 2013.

"We continue to see the quality of our stallions improve in Pennsylvania," Sanfratello said.

Pennsylvania breeders, both Thoroughbred and Standardbred, are well aware of continued attempts by lawmakers to shift slot machine revenue that goes to the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund to other programs on what seems like an annual basis. Breeders argue that the fund it doing its job.

"We will do whatever we have to make sure the PRHDF continues to support Pennsylvania breeders," Sanfratello said. "And when someone asks you where to breed and drop your foal, we want to make sure your answer to that question is Pennsylvania.

"We continue to be engaged as part of the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition to make sure our point continues to get across to legislators."

Last year there were 406 restricted races in Pennsylvania with a value of about $11.1 million in purses. Horsemen made adjustments this year that will increase the projected number of state-bred races to 550 for total purses of about $15 million

Todd Mostoller, executive director of the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents horsemen at Penn National and Presque Isle Downs & Casino, said horsemen at Penn National last year devoted about $7.2 million in purse money to restricted races.

The Pennsylvania HBPA spoke to the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which represents horsemen at Parx Racing, about joining together to set aside 10% of purse money at the tracks for state-bred races. A memorandum of understanding was hammered for this year's program.

"When we're talking to legislators who are concerned about (slots money for racing and breeding) leaving the state, we thought we should memorialize (our contribution to Pennsylvania-bred horses)," Mostoller said.

The number of restricted stakes will go from 16 worth $1.2 million last year to 19 worth $1.4 million this year; about $13.4 million in breeders' awards is projected this year versus $10.4 million in 2013; and owner bonuses are estimated at $7 million.

According to The Jockey Club, the Thoroughbred foal crop in Pennsylvania in 2012 was 929, which placed the state sixth behind Kentucky, Florida, California, Louisiana, and New York. In 2013 there were 909 mares bred in Pennsylvania, good for ninth on the list, according to The Jockey Club.