Competition Said to Offer Opportunities for Breeders

Edited release from Asian Racing Conference

The competition between Darley Stud and Irish-based Coolmore has become the defining element in Thoroughbred breeding, one that opens up opportunities for smaller breeders, delegates were told Jan. 24 at the Asian Racing Conference in Dubai.

Mick Goss, owner of Summerhill Stud in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, told attendees at a workshop on breeding that the competition between what he called the Thoroughbred world’s “two superpowers” has radically changed the business the past 20 years, and that other breeders “have got to adapt or we’ve got to die.”

Goss is the first stud owner to work with the Maktoum family in standing shuttle stallions in the Southern Hemisphere 18 years ago, and he also enjoyed a long working relationship with Coolmore. In the initial stages, Coolmore relied on its deep pool containing some of the world’s most successful sires and a marketing push, while Darley focused on obtaining farm properties around the world before beginning to populate them with young horses, Goss said.

About two years ago, he said the competition became more intense when Darley began to offer breeders a variety of subsidies, discounted fees, and other enticements. At about the same time, Darley began to eschew patronizing offspring of Coolmore stallions at auctions, and both initiatives swayed commercial markets around the globe, Goss said.

“It was only a matter of time before these two titans took the gloves off and changed our world forever,” Goss said.
The competition gives mare owners more options, including being able to delay payments and cut costs. Small studs also can find a niche if they are agile and supply personalized customer service breeders appreciate, Goss said.

During the workshop, Oliver Tait, general manager of Darley Australia, challenged conference delegates to consider ways to stem a tide of breeding and racing mostly for speed, which he defined as the emphasis on races of less than a mile in distance and 2-year-old racing. The trend is detrimental to the Thoroughbred breed if it is detrimental to the sport of racing because racing depends on “brave, sound horses” that compete over longer distances and for several seasons to “give it gravitas as a sport,” Tait said.

“By focusing on speed, we’re moving away from horses that can possibly fulfill that criteria,” Tait said. “We need more horses that are heroes; we need more Makybe Divas and more Deep Impacts.”

Racing administrators have perhaps the best opportunity to take the lead in reversing the speed trend and reshaping the breed by offering prize-money in more stamina-oriented races that will encourage owners and breeders to develop horses for those events, he said.

In other discussion at the workshop, Satish Iyer, registrar of the stud book of India, reported following a meeting of the Asian Stud Book Conference that a majority of members are turning to microchipping as the best way to identify Thoroughbreds.

Microchips will be mandatory for all Japanese-bred racehorses beginning with this year’s foal crop, Dr. Atsushi Kikuta of the Japan Racing Association said. Michael Ford, keeper of the Australian Stud Book, said Australia, which began requiring the chips in 2003, might turn to mandating bio-thermo chips, which show a horse’s temperature and will be used in Japan.

Other data also could eventually be included in the chips, which are implanted in horses’ necks.