The voice of Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher echoed through the halls at a press conference in Frankfort Feb. 21 as he announced that more than $12 million in incentives would be awarded to Thoroughbred breeders through the Kentucky Breeders’ Incentive Fund.
“(This fund) was an important part of my tax modernization plan for growing Kentucky’s economy,” Fletcher said. “It was crafted to preserve and enhance Kentucky’s pre-eminent position in the Thoroughbred breeding industry.”
Administered by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, the fund became effective Jan. 1, 2006 after Fletcher signed an emergency regulation in December 2005 to implement the program for the 2006 racing and breeding seasons. The legislation shifted the sales tax on stud fees to the breeders’ incentive fund. Before 2005, Kentucky was the only major Thoroughbred breeding center without an incentive fund.
The program’s primary economic incentive is for more owners to board their mares in the Bluegrass state, because it requires them to be in Kentucky from the time of breeding until the birth of the foal.
Incentive payments are based on the foal’s eventual winnings on the racetrack. Breeders of horses foaled in 2006 or earlier are eligible to participate in the fund if the horse was eligible to be registered under the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.
Fletcher said the $12.5 million that will be awarded to Thoroughbred breeders is proof the fund has been productive. With 11,000 Thoroughbred mares registered to the program in its first year, Fletcher expressed hope the numbers would continue to grow in 2007.
“This program is working better than we could have ever imagined, with an unbelievable distribution of funds to breeders all over the world,” said Kentucky Sen. Damon Thayer, a sponsor of the legislation.
Of the awards given out in 2006, 66% will go to breeders who live in Kentucky.
Also during the press conference, it was announced an additional $2 million would be awarded to Standardbred breeders, and $1 million to non-race breeds.
“We’re proud to have been a part of getting this important legislation adopted,” said Patrick Neely, executive director of the Kentucky Equine Education Project, an organization that helped lobby for the legislation in 2005.
Representatives from Mulholland Farm, Overbrook Farm, Machmer Hall, Sun Valley, and breeders Mike and Jeanne Owens, Robert Spiegel, and Catherine Parke attended the press conference to receive their awards.
“This is a special moment--we have foals hitting the ground all over the state right now, and it's the situation where we all think we might have the next Derby winner--it's a moment of hope,” said Mike Owens, who with his wife, Jeanne, was presented the first breeders’ incentive check last fall for Sinister Minister's victory in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). “This money will definitely go back into the business…to help us get to the next Derby winner.”
“We moved here from Ohio 10 years ago, and it's a real family effort at our farm, and we're a very small farm,” said Barry Butzer, who received $36,445 for the 2006 breeding efforts at his Sun Valley Farm near Versailles, Ky. “(The fund) has meant a lot more business from our clients and boarders--this legislation has made it important to people like them to come here and do business in Kentucky.
“When we started here, we had six foals, and this year, we'll have 52 foals. We have fellows that will get part of our breeders' awards from our partnerships this year from as far away as Thailand.”