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Breeders Panel Highlights Day 4 Of WTC

Published: August 8, 2011 4:42 pm ET

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A panel of some of America’s leading breeders engaged in a wide-ranging discussion which highlighted Day 4 of the World Trotting Conference. Discussions also included breeders' comments on Jeff Gural's plan which would assure star horses would race into their four-year-old season.

Mike Gulotta of Deo Volente Farms, Jim Simpson of Hanover Shoe Farms, Bob Marks of Perretti Farms and Mike Kimelman of Blue Chip Farm offered observations, did a bit of prognosticating and expressed opinions.

In regard to Jeff Gural's plan to make horses sired by four-year-old stallions ineligible to major races, Gulotta stated that he is torn. "There are arguments on both sides. I have mixed emotions," he said.

"I own a significant piece of Wishing Stone. We've decided to race this horse in Europe at four and five and six. When he's ready he'll come back or stay in Europe, and go to stud."

Gulotta commented on the need to expand markets for standardbred foals, specifically recounting his experiences in China, where he predicted harness racing and pari-mutuel wagering will become a reality in the next few years.

“Wagering is not legal on the Chinese mainland, where 1.2 billion people live, but the government is moving towards making it legal. They first thought only of thoroughbred racing, but we explained that having both breeds would make their investment pay off more.

“Slots, and I think we’ll have them in the next two or three years at the Meadowlands, aren’t the whole answer to growing our industry. Legislators see the amount of money going from the slots to racing and there will be pressure to take some of that away, so we still have to find new markets in order to grow.”

Simpson agreed.

“We legislated the percentage (going to the racing industry from gaming). That’s an expensive way to go about it, but it’s very important to protect the jobs and agricultural growth we provide.”

Simpson also offered his opinion regarding to Gural's plan to keep the industry's star horses racing at age four. He stated that the industry has to get behind Gural's initiative, and said that the wheels are already in motion. "We have an agreement in principle," said Simpson, who went on to state, "we're currently writing those conditions.

"I don't think that this will have that much negative impact on us (breeders). I do think we only have one Jeff Gural and we need to support him."

Simpson said that the racing industry has a lot of time to create great events for four-year-olds. "Jeff Gural has promised that, and I believe him," Simpson said.

Mike Kimelman observed that while the economy is weak and the structure of the business has changed, “the business is really a lot better than you might think.” He also noted that the growth of partnerships has cost breeders some revenue in the short run, but that “growing the ownership base will be a longer term benefit,” and that “we need to grow the number of owners.”

Kimelman stated that he has some issues with Gural's plan to force star three-year-olds to race at age four. He pointed to the direct impact the measure would have on the owners which drop big money for the top yearlings.

"Buying yearlings is about buying dreams, and this (Gural's plan) is about eliminating dreams," Kimelman said. "I think this will deter people from being involved in young horses."

Marks tended to agree with Kimelman in regard to Gural's plan, but also stated that having horses race into their aged years is a good thing.

"A lot of buyers are going to ask, 'Am I really going to be paying 350,000 for a yearling if I can't retire him until five?'" said Marks, who went on to say, "I actually think horses should be racing at four and five and six, but I don't think we should be legislating it."

In response to a question as to whether a viable and potentially popular outcross to American trotting families may be found in Europe -- specifically in France -- Marks offered a pragmatic answer: “Perretti Farms, you remember, stood Revenue S, but American buyers just didn’t buy what we were selling.”

All the breeders, however, said they monitor the European trotting market and would be ready to offer foreign blood if their customers demanded it.

The balance of the morning session was given over to the USTA and North American Equine industry’s work with retired, abandoned and unwanted horses. Among the speakers were USTA Registrar and Member Services Manager Janet Terhune, Harness Racing Communications’ Ellen Harvey and the Unwanted Horse Coalition’s Erica Caslin.

This afternoon, the delegates visited the Standardbred Retirement Foundation for a retraining exhibition, and then moved to Perretti Farms to tour the state’s largest breeding farm and see its stallions, mares and foals.

(With files from USTA)

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