Bill Would Hike Cap on New York Breeders' Awards

The cap on the amount of money available for breeders' awards in New York would be hiked under legislation proposed by the head of the Senate Racing Committee.

Sen. William Larkin wants to increase from 50% to 65% the aggregate award fund for New York-bred awards for breeders to reflect an increase in the number of restricted races for horses bred in the state in recent years at New York Racing Association tracks.

Last year, the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund was unable to disperse about $350,000 in breeders' awards because the statutory cap of 50% had been hit. The situation resulted in money being shifted to other fund categories while breeders of New York Thoroughbreds found themselves not getting the advertised fund levels because the overall fund cap was met.

New York-bred horses are eligible for an additional 20% award, an amount the fund could not give last year. NYRA increased the number of New York-bred restricted races from 495 in 2001 to 722 last year.

"This has no fiscal implication to the state," said Dennis Brida, the outgoing executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders. "This is money that comes from the percentage of handle that goes to the breeding and development fund from (off-track betting) and live racing."

Brida said the program has become "a victim of its own success" because of the increase in restricted races at NYRA tracks. He said New York-breds account for 33% of all horses that run at NYRA tracks, even though they make up 25% of the Thoroughbred population in the state.

Martin Kinsella, executive director of the breeding fund, said the 11-member board would also have to approve any increase above the 50% level if the legislation passes. He said the agency joined the breeders' trade group in asking lawmakers to raise the cap.

"Raising the cap would allow us to pay out at the level we advertise," said Kinsella, who noted making more money be available for breeders' awards would not mean less money for other categories because the money collected is based on betting handle. "We had the money available to disperse it last year, but couldn't, so it's not like we'd have to rob it from another pot of money."

Legislative sources said the breeders originally wanted to eliminate the 50% cap. The new bill also would increase the money available for owners of New York-breds from the current cap of 40% to 45%, and the cap on awards for owners of registered New York stallions from 15% to 25%.

"The failure of the fund to pay awards at publicly advertised levels creates uncertainty in the horse racing industry," said a memo from Larkin's office. "Further, it erodes confidence in the New York-bred program if breeders, stallion owners, and owners of New York-bred horses cannot with certainty plan the anticipated revenue stream for breeding and racing New York-bred horses."

The breeding fund, a quasi-state agency that oversees the Thoroughbred breeding industry in New York, was established in 1973. It distributes about $50 million a year in various incentives, breeders' awards, stallion awards, owners' awards, and purse money for New York-bred horses.