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Showcasing a Winning Program for the Empire State

By Sarah Mace | 05/30/2013 03:49 PM ET

Inspired by the popularity of Belmont’s New York-bred Showcase Day in October, a new marquee day of New York-bred racing has been added to the NYRA calendar: Big Apple Showcase Day presented by The New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund (“the Fund”). Scheduled a week before the running of the Belmont Stakes, when all eyes are focused on Elmont, NY, Big Apple Showcase Day is yet one more affirmation of the resurgence of the New York Racing and Breeding Program.

These days, first-rate performances by New York-breds at NYRA and beyond have become a matter of course. In 2012 five New York-breds won five Grade 1 races from coast-to-coast and in Canada, and 10 additional graded events nationwide. Success like this makes it is easy to forget that recently the NY breeding program had fallen on hard times.

In 2010, the New York breeding industry was in disarray. After the selection process for a VLT operator had dragged on for nearly a decade, New York saw 100 breeding farms close, a precipitous reduction in the mare population and reduction in the number of stallions in the state by more than half. The 2011 foal crop fell off to its lowest level in more than a decade.
Everything changed in October 2011 with the opening of the Resorts World New York Casino at Aqueduct. On the strength of anticipated VLT revenue, NYRA announced a 36% purse hike for the Aqueduct Winter/Spring meet (with similar announcements for Belmont and Saratoga to come) and the Fund, slated to receive 1% of the Aqueduct VLT splits, announced a 50% across-the-board increase in breeders’ awards. Virtually overnight there was an explosion of activity in the breeding sector.

Major commercial farms re-opened, mares flocked to the state and blue-chip breeding operations based in Kentucky and elsewhere sent stallions to New York. The value of New York-breds skyrocketed. At the 2012 New York-bred yearling sale at Saratoga total sales increased by 83%.
The other big winner in this turnaround for breeders is the State. The New York breeding industry is a job-creating, job-sustaining and tax-paying complex of activities, goods and services that supports state and local economies in 50 counties. Jeffry Cannizzo, Executive Director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. said, “A revitalized breeding industry is putting farmland back into service and agricultural service providers back to work across the State.” This is exactly the kind of economic development New York needs.

The resurgence of New York breeding is grounded as much in the racing program as in the NYRA purse structure. In 2012 NYRA ran 627 races restricted to New York-breds, including 51 stakes races. Big Apple Showcase Day features seven stakes worth $850,000 in purses. Tracy Egan, Executive Director of the Fund said, “The Fund is proud to co-sponsor Big Apple Showcase Day. The race card is a perfect example of the excellent racing opportunities available to registered NY-breds.”

Of course, New York-breds aren’t the only first rate home-gown products on parade these days at Belmont, where there is a new weekly Farmer’s Market. “New York agriculture is a huge economic engine and we are pleased that so many of our products will be prominently on display at Belmont Park this year,” said Darrel J. Aubertine, Commissioner of the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets.  “When people purchase New York products they know they are getting superior products - made in New York and world class."