The Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program, formed earlier in the decade to preserve farmland and offer incentives for horses domiciled in the state, now has almost 1,300 registered Thoroughbreds, according to the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
The program sprung from the 1994 Horse Racing Redevelopment Act, which authorized video lottery terminals at three Delaware racetracks—Delaware Park and two harness facilities, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway. One of its goals is to increase the number of horses that race at Delaware Park.
To qualify, a horse must spend a minimum of 90 days at a farm or training center in Delaware prior to March 31 of its 2-year-old year and race at Delaware Park. The owners and certifiers of qualified horses are each eligible for 15% of all purses when the horses finish first, second, or third in any race, though in stakes, the bonus tops out at $5,000.
The one-time DCTP fee is $50 for weanlings and $100 for yearlings. So far, 1,292 horses are eligible, up more than 330 from 2007. More than 60 farms in the state participate in the program, according to DCTP resources.
“Six years ago, we had 110 Thoroughbreds in our program,” said Scott Peck, president of the Delaware THA, which created the DCTP. “Today, we have almost 1,300, and the benefits to Thoroughbred horsemen and Delaware’s agricultural economy have grown as rapidly.”
Peck said the program has paid $1.6 million in purse bonuses thus far, and has contributed roughly $10 million to the state’s economy and farmland preservation efforts.
The program has a stakes schedule that will expand this year. There are two six-furlong events each worth $75,000—the Delaware Certified Stakes and the Delaware Certified Distaff—and two new $75,000 events for 2-year-olds at five furlongs on the turf: the Small Wonder and the First State Dash. All four will be run Sept. 27 at Delaware Park.
Delaware has a Standardbred breeding program complete with stallions, but not a Thoroughbred breeding program. The DCTP was designed to compensate for that by at least offering incentives for Thoroughbreds to locate at farms in the state.
Delaware Park kicks off its 2008 meet April 19. Despite VLT-fueled purses that average about $250,000 a day for 135 days, the track has struggled to fill races given intense competition for horses in the Mid-Atlantic region. The opening day program, for instance, attracted only 60 horses, with one of the nine races for Arabians.
The track will offer a stakes schedule worth more than $5 million this year.