New York's Best Of 2021: Najja Thompson - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

New York’s Best Of 2021: Najja Thompson

Najja Thompson, executive director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders

Just two live race days remain in 2021 to complete a remarkable year of racing action on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit. The NYRA Press Office checked in with a selection of New York-based racing personalities to get their reflections on the memorable year.

Najja Thompson is the Executive Director for New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. (NYTB). A graduate of Florida State University, Thompson previously worked for NYRA in a variety of departments, including communications and marketing. He also serves as vice president for the Turf Publicists of America.

Describe your role for New York Thoroughbred Breeders, (NYTB) Inc.

Thompson: “We are the official authorized organization that represents the thoroughbred breeding industry in New York. In my role as executive director, I work on behalf of our board of directors and membership to educate, promote, and enhance the New York-bred program. I also work to promote the incentives offered to breed and race in New York in addition to joining NYTB in support of our breeding industry.”

How has the New York program developed in 2021?

Thompson: “I think our program's success this year is built on the foundation of our prior triumphs. Over the past ten years under my predecessor, Jeffrey Cannizzo, the program has developed into the top regional state-bred program in the country. This year was no exception. You had horses like Cross Border taking the Grade 2 Bowling Green and Rinaldi winning the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple at Saratoga, Somelikeithotbrown winning the Grade 2 Dinner Party at Pimlico, and, for the 12th consecutive year, a New York-bred won a Grade 1 race with Americanrevolution winning the Grade 1 Cigar Mile. It shows the prominence of the program and quality of our progeny winning at the highest levels. New York-breds have to be respected when competing in the top races in the country and have performed well to earn that consideration.”

What are some of the strengths and advantages to breeding and racing in New York?

Thompson: “We have a great established breeding program with top quality stallion farms and boarding facilities throughout the state. In addition, through the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund, we offer a multitude of incentives for program participants, including breeder and stallion owner awards, and open owner awards for all New York-bred horses that compete in open company races with a claiming price of at least $30,000. Our awards are also tiered so that New York-breds sired by New York stallions earn double in awards compared to horses that are sired outside of New York.

“We also offer the 10-race New York Stallion Stakes Series for eligible New York-sired horses with purses totaling $2.3 million including the richest juvenile state-bred stakes in the country. Last year, we also made it easier to own a New York resident mare with mares in foal purchased at public auction for $50,000 or more and sent to New York within 15 days following the sale making the mare a New York resident mare and her foal a New York-bred. All these developments and the chance to compete on the NYRA circuit with enhanced purses for restricted and open company should entice owners and breeders to invest in New York racing.”

Americanrevolution is co-owned by WinStar Farm, a commercial racing and breeding operation. What does it mean to have major owners and breeders taking part in the New York program?

Thompson: “It's definitely a great development and a result of the quality farms and breeding operations that we have in New York. Breeders, consignors, bloodstock agents and buyers can invest in the New York-bred program knowing their foals will be raised right and can later compete on the best circuit and races throughout the country.”

How involved are you in bringing stallion prospects to New York?

Thompson: “One of the key components of my job is not only promoting our current stallions but also working to attract new stallions to come to New York. We've seen the quality that can be produced in New York, including Central Banker's progeny who have done well in recent years in addition to Big Brown, Freud, War Dancer, Honest Mischief, and Fog of War, a War Front stallion creating excitement. Looking ahead, we have Combatant, Venezuelan Hug, and Waiting coming in for 2022.

“In addition, we're continuing our efforts to recruit quality stallions to help the New York-sired program. It's always about promoting and improving the program. You want to have that demand and make sure our current stallions are being actively promoted. What makes New York a great program is you can breed into quality bloodlines at a fraction of the price with great incentives and purses behind that investment. As well, we want to bring in additional stallions in the near future that are commercially viable and proven on the market. We're always open to exploring how we can assist to bring additional quality and depth to breeders.”

What are your goals for the New York thoroughbred industry?

Thompson: “Number One – we have to continue to make sure that we can bring in quality mares to New York. It's important for any state-bred program that it has the foundation of quality mares in addition to stallions to breed to in our efforts to increase the foal crop.

“It's also really great to have a positive relationship with NYRA and NYTHA. They've both always been supportive of the program. I've worked closely with Dave O'Rourke, Martin Panza, Joe Appelbaum, Will Alempijevic and now Keith Doleshel as well as on the TV side with Tony Allevato and Eric Donovan. We see tremendous support for the New York-bred program through the FOX TV show as well as the racetrack and horsemen partnership. America's Day at the Races is a great tool in our efforts to promote the New York-bred brand and getting more people involved.”

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