Over at Boojum’s Bonanza, that blog’s inquisitorial statistician has posted a story about 1969 Horse of the Year and Belmont Stakes winner Arts and Letters that was written by the legendary Daily Racing Form columnist Charlie Hatton. It’s an interesting piece and worth a look in itself.
In discussing the pedigree of Arts and Letters, which was quite good (1966 ch h by Ribot x All Beautiful, by Battlefield), Hatton also mentions that All Beautiful’s third dam, “Star Fairy, [was] one of two mares Will du Pont retained when producers were a drug on the market, and breeders would give you one and a halter in which to lead her off the place.”
That comment sounds shockingly familiar. Ah, yes, we’re back to the future!
As I advised an out-of-state visitor before the 2011 Keeneland January sale, “beware of people handing you a lead shank, they may walk off without telling you that you’ve just inherited the mare it’s attached to.”
The state of the breed and the economics of breeding are generally at that point right now. Despite the wealth of green grass and the bounty of improving weather, breeding racehorses is mostly red ink at present and has been for the greater part of the last three or four years.
And despite the great tail-wagging organizations with two-, three-, and four-letter labels, the only way out of this appears to be on our own.
As I understand it, the Keeneland Association was originally started by the Breeders Sales, which was functionally a sales cooperative that gave breeders the opportunity to conduct their own sales, promote their own stock, and control the volume of production.
Yeah, that last bit is the key.
We are dying of oversupply right now, and it appears that is going to be the future trend for a couple of years, at least. Which means ….
So, instead of twisting in the wind, how about this? As a group, Kentucky breeders drop a third of their broodmare bands. We breed only to stallions with books limited to 80 mares. We form a very large breeder-owner cooperative to break, train, and develop the 30 percent to 50 percent of the yearling crop that really isn’t big enough, progressive enough, or finished enough to be a genuine commercial animal at 14 to 18 months.
That would make a difference for all of us.