Horse industry still running strong with breeding and purses, officials tell lawmakers

10/09/2013 12:14 PM

While Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky racetracks have called for expanded gambling to save a suffering horse industry, racing and breeding officials told lawmakers Wednesday that Kentucky horses are still dominating North America and the world.

Still, one legislator at Wednesday’s committee meeting said he still would like to re-route funds away from equine drug research and use it towards keeping Kentucky bred horses running at Kentucky race tracks through higher purses.

Kentucky out-performs all other states in breeding with Florida, California, Louisiana and New York following, said Jamie Eads of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

“Kentucky continues to lead North America in the breeding. The top stallions still stand in our state,” Eads said. “Kentucky leads not only in the U.S. in the numbers of mares bred, but the number of stallions standing in our state, and the number of breedings with each stallion.”

While breeding is still king in the state, legislators in the past have been worried about keeping those horses running in Kentucky. State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, sponsored a constitutional amendment in 2012 to allow casino gaming in Kentucky, which he said could create revenue to help horse racing.

Thayer now says he will propose legislation in the upcoming 2014 budget session to reallocate a major portion of $3-million in equine drug research funds out of the hands and place that money with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund to increase purses for Kentucky bred and raced horses.

The money that comes from an excise tax on pari-mutuel wagering at the tracks is designated for research and has piled up over time to more than $3 million, Thayer said.

“That fund is down significantly because of the transfer of wagering from on track wagers, where there is a tax collected, to advanced deposit wagering…which is not taxed,” Thayer said.

Pari-mutuel wagering has been a mixed bag as far as performance is going across the state the racing commission told the group. The states largest tracks, such as Churchill Downs, are doing well. So are the three smallest tracks. But the intermediate tracks — Ellis Park, Turfway and Red Mile — saw a decline in handles.

Greg Lamb, the supervisor of pari-mutuel wagering for the racing commission, said that’s not good news, but he is not sure what caused those trends.


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