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Mass. Program Expanding Interest

Published: June 13, 2017 12:23 pm ET

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Breeding competitive Standardbreds in Massachusetts goes back to the 1800s when the Boston-based New England Trotting Horse Breeders Association backed and promoted it. And as a result of organizations like that, quality state-bred trotters and pacers have been breaking major records in the sport as far back as 1912 when Uhlan, who was foaled in Bedford, Massachusetts, trotted a world record mile in 1:58.

Today the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts mission is much the same as their predecessors and the work of the group is helping the quality of the horses that come out of the state to just keep getting better.

The goal of the Massachusetts breeding program is to promote agriculture and open space, improve the breed and provide economic growth and ancillary jobs to everyone involved. And on the strength of two very important bills, the current Massachusetts Sire Stake program has become one of the fastest growing programs of its type in North America.

The first was the resident mare legislation of 2001 that stated all mares bred out of state who reside in Massachusetts would give birth to Massachusetts-eligible foals. The second was the 2011 Race Horse Development Fund legislation that directs proceeds from expanded gaming in the state to the horse breeding and racing industries.

That combination of laws has since produced some of the best harness racing the state of Massachusetts has ever seen. But more importantly, it has breathed new life into what was a rather stagnant breeding program and made it very attractive to individuals currently racing in many jurisdictions outside of the Bay State.

The Massachusetts Sire Stake program is run quite differently from any other in the industry. Rather than have the stallion stand in the state, only the mare need reside in Massachusetts for the full breeding season. It gives the breeder the flexibility to breed to any top stallion in North America and bring the mare to Massachusetts to foal.

So as long as the mare is registered with the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts and a statement of where she will be residing in Massachusetts prior to December 1 is on file and the mare remains in the state until foaling, the foal will be eligible to the Massachusetts Sire Stakes program.

The foal will also be eligible to the sire stake program where the stallion is standing, so having it eligible to two different stake programs simultaneously brings extra equity to the breeding. Massachusetts-eligibles have been performing successfully in other sire stakes programs and the duplicity of eligibility has driven up prices of these horses at the sales.

So you can race your horse in the New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania stakes and then bring it to Massachusetts in October and have even more earnings opportunities.

Since expanded gaming at Plainridge Park started generating money for the breeding program the Massachusetts Sire Stakes offering has gone from a total of $206,396 in 2014 to $1.2 million in 2016, Massachusetts breeders have gone from 56 to 72, the number of resident broodmares has risen from 40 to 111 and there are now 40 working Standardbred farms serving the needs of all these horses and people as a result of it.

There have been many competitive race horses bred in Massachusetts in recent years, but the two most notable are definitely Royalty For Life and Wings Of Royalty.

Royalty For Life (R C Royalty-Bourbon ‘N Grits 1:51.3, $1,620,166) was bred by Alfred Ross of South Dartmouth, Massachusetts and has made headlines worldwide.

At two Royalty For Life won four legs of the New York Sire Stakes and earned $129,063 for his efforts and he went on to finish second in the Breeders Crown his sophomore year as well.

At three, he raced exclusively on the Grand Circuit and won the $1.2 million Hambletonian. And he did it old-school; winning two heats on the same day as the classic stake returned to its traditional format in 2013, the first time since 1997.

Royalty For Life was a truly New England affair as the horse was foaled in Belchertown, Massachusetts and was owned by Alfred Ross of South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Raymond Campbell of Belchertown, Massachusetts and Paul Fontaine of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Plus his trainer George Ducharme is from Norfolk, Massachusetts.

Wings Of Royalty (R C Royalty-Sparkling Cider 1:51.4, $603,784) was bred by Raymond Campbell Jr. of Belchertown, Massachusetts and starred in two different sire stakes programs.

At two, Wings Of Royalty raced exclusively in the New York program, winning two legs and finishing second in the final to bank $122,702 in Empire State earnings.

At three he made $181,223 in New York Sire Stakes and also competed on the Grand Circuit in the Hambletonian, Zweig, Empire Breeders Classic and an elimination of the Yonkers Trot.

But then he earned another $40,900 in the Massachusetts Sire Stakes.

He raced in three eliminations and the final at Plainridge Park and won all four starts. And in the process he became the fastest 3-year-old trotting colt ever in the Massachusetts Sire Stakes and set the Plainridge Park track record for the same age, gait and gender while winning in 1:54.4 on September 28, 2015.

Now five years old, Wings Of Royalty is racing Open competition and recently set a new all-time track trotting record at Tioga Downs of 1:53.2 on Saturday (May 13).

With the success Plainridge Park has been having on the gaming floor and two more stand-alone casinos coming online in Massachusetts in the next two years, additional funding will further enhance the Massachusetts Sire Stakes program as provided in the language of the Race Horse Development Fund. And that could make the horses foaled in Massachusetts next year the most valuable crop yet.

(Standardbred Breeders of Massachusetts)

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