Day At The Track

How Stud Book Cap has affected harness racing

12:46 PM 25 Oct 2019 NZDT
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Harness racing
Ed Keys/USTA photo

THE PAULICK REPORT today by Joe Nevills reports that Horse racing is an industry built on using past performance to predict future outcomes, and if The Jockey Club goes through with its proposal to limit stud books to 140 mares bred per season, the Thoroughbred business has a decade of experience from the Standardbred side of the aisle to map out the road ahead.

The United States Trotting Association, the regulatory body for Standardbred racing and breeding in the U.S., has imposed a 140-head limit on mares bred by stallions who debuted in 2009 or later, and after early periods of potential legal battles and business adjustments, the cap is now considered business as usual.

The U.S. Standardbred gene pool is far shallower than its Thoroughbred cousin, both in the number of foundation pedigrees and in its current population – roughly a third of the national Thoroughbred head count. By the mid-2000s, a small handful of sires had taken command of the marketplace, and a growing abundance of 2×3 crosses had some in the USTA concerned about the genetic diversity of the breed.

Only a small handful of stallions exceeded what would become the 140-mare limit, but with artificial insemination expanding a stallion's availability beyond his immediate surroundings, the busiest ones could top out near 300 mares.

Among the industry leaders seeking a change was Russell Williams, president and CEO of top breeding operation Hanover Shoe Farms in Pennsylvania and president of the USTA. At the time the cap was first being discussed, Williams was a board member with the breed organization.

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