In her three-part series on how the New York breeding industry has been revitalized in recent years, Terese Karmel has already looked at the huge impact of the awards program. Here she looks at how the improved situation is bringing more quality stallions to the state.
“If it wasn’t for the New York Thoroughbred breeding program, I’d probably have to go out of business.”
Co-owner Michael Lischin is sitting at his wide desk in the office of Dutchess Views Farms in Pine Planes, New York, located midway between Manhattan and Saratoga Springs. To the east he has a view of the Berkshires; to the west, he can see the Catskills. The 200-acre horse breeding and boarding farm is perfectly located in the heart of Dutchess County, New York, a viable area, of gently rolling hills, populated by barns and paddocks.
Once the home to dozens of dairy farms, they have all closed up, and now horse farms, for the most part, have claimed ownership of the land, which Lischin points out creates hundreds of agriculture jobs and preserves open space.
The top stallions
The fact that these horse farms are still there is largely due to the breeder, stallion and owner awards scheme operated by the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund.
Last year the fund gave out $16 million in awards and purse enhancements from the state and other resources. The generous awards, thanks in large part to NY slot machines, have kept dozens of horse farms in business, and, in 2016 alone, 33 new ones opened.
Dutchess Views is home to two of the top three stallions in New York: 12-year-old Big Brown(a Boundary colt out of a Mien mare) and Bellamy Road (a Concerto out of a Hurry Home Hillary mare), both of whom arrived there from Kentucky several years ago. Each standing for $7,500, they have revitalized his operation.
“Ten years ago, it was okay to be next to a $2,500 New York sire because that’s who you were competing against in New York-bred races,” Lischin said. “Nowadays you can very easily be in a New York-bred race and running against an Uncle Mo who is also a New York-bred because owners bred to Uncle Mo, foaled in New York and now that’s a New York-bred from Uncle Mo.”
“If you have a good mare and you want a New York-bred foal who is competitive with the top Kentucky sires, you have to breed to a better stallion. You can’t breed to a $1,500 sire.
“Big Brown and Bellamy Road are similar because they’re established horses. Those two and Freud are the three top stallions in New York right now. Now people who don’t want to go to the expense and risk of shipping their mare to Kentucky have these two established horses. The fact that you have Bellamy Road and Big Brown in New York means, at least up to that level, you can keep the mares here.”
According to the 2016 Breeder’s Fund report, Freud, who stands for $10,000 at Sequel Stallions in Hudson, New York, finished 35th nationally in progeny earnings of $5.1 million from 95 winners of 185 runners. Posse, who stood at Rockridge Stud but has been moved to the Southern Hemisphere, produced progeny that earned $5 million, including 2016 Breeder’s Cup Sprint winner Mind Your Biscuits, who won the $2 million G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 25.
Bellamy Road’s offspring earned $4.6 million from 101 winners of 195 runners and Big Brown’s progeny earned $3.5 million from 67 winners of 144 runners.
Big Brown landed at Dutchess Views because his connections already had placed their stallion Heavy Breathing there. They were satisfied with the arrangement so they bought out the Three Chimneys interest and move him north.
Competing with Kentucky
He arrived Christmas Day 2014 to much fanfare and national press coverage and immediately went to work covering 140 mares in his first year. In a stroke of luck, one of his sons, Dortmund, who has just been retired, was starting to draw attention on the Triple Crown trail and that helped the bookings.
Bellamy Road, who also stands for $7,500, was at WinStar in Kentucky, but the group that partially owned him wanted to place a horse in New York because of the lucrative New York-bred awards. Among the owners was the late George Steinbrenner’s operation, which ran him under his Kinsman stable’s blue and brown colors.
In 2016, a dozen stallions were placed in New York, including New York-bred Effinex, a multi-millionaire son of Mineshaft out of New York-bred What A Pear, who stands for $10,000 at Questroyal North in Stillwater, New York, and Laoban, son of Uncle Mo, who won the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga in August and now stands for $7,500 at Sequel Stallions.
At the time of the announcement that Effinex would stand in New York, Questroyal North owner Barry Ostrager said, “As spectacular as the New York program has been, there has been a perceived void, and the owners of high-quality mares have shipped them to Kentucky to be bred, believing — I think wrongly — that there were no New York stallions of equal quality.
“With the arrival of Effinex, resident mares can now be bred to a stallion that successfully competed with and defeated stallions in Kentucky standing for $40,000 and $50,000 without all the transactional expenses of shipping.”
All in a day’s work
On an unusually warm day for late February, a pair of horse vans with a trio of mares pulls into Dutchess Views yard, in preparation for their occupants’ romantic encounters with Big Brown and Bellamy Road.
Two are from the New York, New Jersey area; a third is from Florida.
This day Michael Lischen can count on $22,500 in stud fees and, who knows, maybe New York sons and daughters of these two outstanding stallions will finish at the top of NY-bred races, which means more money for Dutchess Farms and their connections.
Lischen works his way around the muddy pools of melting snow to talk with the van drivers about the plans for the day. In the immaculate barn, Big Brown and Bellamy Road are being prepared for their breeding sessions.
At Dutchess Farms and the countless other New York breeding operations in the upper reaches of the state, it’s all in a day’s work.
In the final part of the series next month, Terese Karmel reports on worries over the future of the casino revenue that has made the awards program possible.