'Fact Book' Details Effects of MRLS in Kentucky, Other Industry Numbers

The number of mares bred in Kentucky in 2002 -- the year after mare reproductive loss syndrome first hit -- fell by 3.4% from 2001, but the state's broodmare population remains 33% higher than it was a decade earlier, according to figures released by The Jockey Club and contained in its annual "Fact Book" available online at jockeyclub.com

Mare reproductive loss syndrome reduced the 2001 foal crop by approximately 500 because of late-term fetal loss, and the 2002 crop fell by about 2,000 because of early-term abortions. As a result, the North American foal crop went from 37,334 in 2000 (the largest since 1992), to 36,800 in 2001, to 35,600 in 2002. Jockey Club officials expect the foal crop to regain most of its losses in 2003 when 37,000 registered foals are projected.

Over a 10-year period from 1991-01, Kentucky's broodmare population grew by one-third, the largest gain of any state. Florida, second in the number of mares bred in 2002 with 7,067, gained 8.7% over the same decade. The only other state showing an increase in mares bred from 1991-01 was New York, up by 1.9%. By contrast, the number of mares bred in several other leading breeding states fell significantly from 1991-01: California, by 27.8%; Illinois, by 37.5%; Louisiana, by 21.7%; Maryland, by 36.9%; Ohio, by 39.1%; Oklahoma, by 41.1%; and Texas, by 16.0%.

Gross purses in the United States grew by 0.6% in 2002, the smallest gain since 1993, when purses and handle both fell marginally. Pari-mutuel handle increased by 3.5%, also the smallest rise since 1993. As the number of races in the U.S. continues to fall (down nearly one-third since 1991), the average field size has stabilized and, in fact, increased to 8.27 in 2002, up from 8.18 the previous year. In addition to the reduced number of races, there were more individual starters in 2002 than in any year since 1994.

One trend that continues unabated is the decline in the average number of annual starts per runner. The 2002 figure declined by 2.4% to 6.80 starts per runner, down from 6.97 in 2001. Historically, the average starts per runner has declined from 11.37 in 1960, 10.22 in 1970, 9.21 in 1980, and 7.94 in 1990.