Updated: Trio Of Kentucky Farms Files Suit Over Stud Book Cap - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Updated: Trio Of Kentucky Farms Files Suit Over Stud Book Cap

B. Wayne Hughes

Three large Kentucky breeding farms have filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court in an attempt to put a halt to a new rule by The Jockey Club limiting Thoroughbred stallions to 140 foals each year. Spendthrift Farm, Ashford Stud, and Three Chimneys announced the suit Tuesday morning against The Jockey Club, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz, and KHRC executive director Marc Guilfoil.

The suit includes nine civil charges related to the rule, which was announced in the spring of 2020 and would apply to stallions born in 2020 and onward. The rule would allow The Jockey Club to register only the foals from the first 140 mares bred to a stallion each year.

There would be no cap on the books of stallions born in 2019 or prior.

The rule will limit the economic value of horses born in 2020 and later, drive up stud fees, and send more mares to less commercially desirable stallions as stud book limits are reached, according to the three breeding farms. Since other countries don't impose a stud book limit like this one, they say it will also make American stallions and stallion prospects more attractive to foreign buyers.

“The introduction of the stallion cap by The Jockey Club is a blatant abuse of power that is bad law, bad science and bad business,” said B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm in a press release. “A handful of individuals from a private club in New York have been allowed to make a decision that will negatively impact the future of Thoroughbred racing and breeding both in Kentucky and the whole country.

“We have filed this complaint to defend the industry from anti-competitive, un-American and arbitrary decision making that is not based on scientific evidence.

“If they can limit the number to 140, what's to stop them from limiting it to 100 or 80 or any other number down the road? What if your mare isn't one of the 140? We are really concerned about the small breeder's ability to survive this.”

When making its announcement about the cap, The Jockey Club pointed to a 2011 study published in the scientific journal Animal Genetics showing an increase in inbreeding in Thoroughbreds between 1996 and 2006, at which time the number of stallions covering 100 or more mares went from 14 to 128.

The civil suit alleges that The Jockey Club's limit on foal registrations was passed by the Jockey Club Stewards with no vote by the general membership. Further, the suit claims, the Stewards have conflicts of interest that would make a limitation on stallion foal crops from competitors financially advantageous. The suit specifically names Stonestreet Stables, Cheyenne Stables, St. Elias Stables, Jump Sucker Stable, TIC Stables, Ocala Stud, Darby Dan Farm, and Lane's End Farm as beneficiaries of the rule.

Only Thoroughbreds registered by The Jockey Club are permitted to enter parimutuel races in Kentucky (and other racing states). The suit claims that Rabinowitz and Guilfoil, as representatives of the state, inappropriately designated the state's regulatory authority to The Jockey Club by allowing The Jockey Club to determine which horses could be registered as Thoroughbreds and therefore, which can race in Kentucky.

The plaintiffs point out that they would be unable to register or race foals beyond the 140 limit in virtually any other racing country, since The Jockey Club represents North America in The International Stud Book Committee. The ISBC has an agreement that the only horses recognized as Thoroughbreds will be those that a member stud book has registered. The ISBC includes 69 stud books throughout the world.

The civil counts in the case are based on violations of state and federal law, including the Kentucky and U.S. constitutions.

Among a list of other requests for judgment, including injunctions against The Jockey Club and punitive damages, the plaintiffs also request “an injunction requiring the KHRC, through its chairman and executive director, to permit Thoroughbreds to race in Kentucky regardless of their inclusion in the Jockey Club registry.”

The Jockey Club released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

“In May 2020, The Jockey Club board of stewards announced that it had adopted a final rule limiting the annual breeding of individual stallions. The rule reflects The Jockey Club's goal to preserve the health of the Thoroughbred breed for the long term. The rule applies prospectively to stallions foaled in 2020 or later; it does not apply to stallions already out to stud.

“The Jockey Club publicly proposed a draft rule in September 2019 and received many thoughtful comments, which the stewards carefully considered in formulating a rule that will promote diversity of the Thoroughbred gene pool and protect the long-term health of the breed.

“Because the rule applies only to stallions born in 2020 or later, any effect on future stud fees or breeding economics is speculative. The Jockey Club stands by the rule and its purpose, which is to preserve the health of the Thoroughbred breed for the long term. The Jockey Club will continue to maintain the Principal Rules and Requirements of The American Studbook in keeping with its mission to ensure the health of the Thoroughbred breed.”

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