Last week the Jockey club proposed putting a cap on the number of mares an individual stallion can cover in a season. The reasoning? To improve the genetic diversity of the thoroughbred breed.
A press release from the Jockey Club noted, “43 stallions reporting 140 or more mares” in their 2018 books, and those stallions accounted for nearly 30 percent of
the mares covered. The number of mares being bred has dropped from 63,479 in 1991 to 30,274 in 2018 and the number of active stallions has dropped from 6,696 in 1991 to 1,214 in 2018 [source: Thoroughbred Daily News]. So, you have fewer stallions covering fewer mares with the top 40 stallions covering more than 140 mares per year. Five stallions covered more than 200 mares: Into Mischief (245), Cupid (223), Klimt (222); Practical Joke (220); and Violence (214).
Compare this breeding approac h to the “old days.” In the 1960s, a book of 36 mares was considered “full”. It crept up to 40 to 50 in the 1970s then exploded in the 80s and 90s to 150 to 160 mares.
Capping the number of mares that stallions can cover will impact only a small percentage of stallions, but for those already at the top of the list, the increase in stud fees may be significant. Take Into Mischief — demand for him as a sire far exceeds the 245 mares he covered in 2018, even at a fee of $150K per live birth. In turn, the foals from these elite stallions should also increase in value. Take the Curlin colt who sold at the 2019 Keeneland September sale for a staggering $4.1 million. Imagine what he’d be worth when breedings are capped!
The proposed capping scheme would be phased in over several years:
- Stallions entering stud service for the first time in 2020 would be exempt from the 140 limit through the 2023 season;
- Stallions that entered stud service in 2019 would be exempt through the 2022 season;
- Stallions that entered stud service in 2018 would be exempt through the 2021 season;
- Stallions that entered service in 2017 or prior would be subject to the 140 cap as of January 1, 2021.
Do you think that diversifying the breeding pool will help American Thoroughbreds? or have decades of breeding for speed over endurance be too much to overcome?