Between the Hedges: Importance of New York’s Breeding Program



The following is the latest edition of a bi-weekly series entitled Between The Hedges, discussing the business of betting with a focus on trending wagering topics and statistics. This week’s column is penned by Joe Longo, NYRA General Manager of Content Services. Send your questions for Between The Hedges to [email protected].

The New York State breeding program plays a pivotal role in the racing calendar at New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) tracks throughout the year.

Highlighted by three state-bred stakes days during the Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course meets, state-bred restricted races represent more than 30 percent of the races run at NYRA tracks.

“The New York breeding program is critical to the success of racing at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga,” said William Alempijevic, Executive Director of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “Combining the opportunity to race in restricted races with the success of New York-breds in open company and parlaying with the lucrative incentives, New York-breds offer a tremendous opportunity to our owner and trainer members alike.”

The state-bred stakes days have grown over the last several years. The Belmont spring/summer meet’s Big Apple Showcase Day, which this year offered six restricted stakes worth $900,000 in total purse money, was first run on Memorial Day in 2015 and has maintained that spot on the racing calendar.

In 2015, the total handle on Big Apple Showcase Day was $10,923,487 and has since averaged $12,123,152, reaching a highwater mark of $14,181,204 in 2018.

The Saratoga summer meet’s New York Showcase Day is offered on the Friday before Travers Week, and boasted handle of $16,440,423 in 2015. The lucrative state-bred card, to be held this year on August 27 at the Spa, will feature six stakes for state-breds worth a combined $1.15 million.

The popular New York Showcase Day at Saratoga has averaged handle of $18,397,837, reaching as high as $19,337,739 in 2018.

The Empire Showcase Day card at the Belmont fall meet has also enjoyed success, averaging $12,547,341 in handle dating back to 2015.

State-bred restricted offerings vary by meet. In 2020, 33 percent of the races run at Aqueduct Racetrack were state-bred restricted, while Belmont Park [32 percent] and Saratoga [28 percent] also offered a significant number of races restricted to horses bred in the Empire State.

In 2019, 35 percent of the races run at Aqueduct were state bred restricted, slightly higher than the state-bred offerings at Belmont [31 percent] and Saratoga [25 percent].

The purses tendered for these races reflect the importance of the state-bred program with over $28 million in purse money offered at NYRA tracks in 2020, representing 27 percent of the total purses for the year. In 2019, the total purses offered at NYRA tracks for New York-bred races exceeded $40 million, representing 24 percent of the total purses for the year.

From a handle perspective, over $630 million – or 34 percent of total handle – was wagered on state-bred races in 2020, while in 2019 almost $660 million – or 31 percent of total handle – was derived from state-bred races. The strong handle numbers are directly correlated to their participation with average field size of almost nine runners in the last several years.

New York-breds were competitive in open company last year as well, highlighted by Tiz the Law’s victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets and the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers at Saratoga.

In 2020, 25 percent of the open-company races run at Aqueduct were won by New York-breds, followed by 15 percent at Belmont Park and 11 percent at Saratoga, amounting to winning 18 percent of the total open-company races run during the year. In 2019, the results were similar.

In addition to New York-bred restricted purse money, there are also breeder and stallion incentives offered within the state. Breeders awards are given to the owner of the mare at the time the mare foals in the state.

There are two tiers available for breeders awards based on purse money earned. The tiers are based on whether the horse is a New York-sired New York-bred by a registered New York stallion or a non-New York-sired New York-bred, sired by an out-of-state stallion or non-registered New York-stallion.

New York-sired first-place finishers receive an additional 30 percent bonus, with second and third-place finishers awarded an additional 15 percent capped at $40,000 per award.

For Non-New York-sired horses, first-place finishers receive an additional 15 percent, with second and third-place finishers awarded an additional 7.5 percent capped at $20,000 per award.

Stallion owners’ awards are available for all races run in New York and are paid to owners of stallions registered in the state at the time of conception. The awards are 10 percent of purse money earned for first through third place by progeny of registered New York stallions capped at $10,000 per award.

In addition to the awards above, there is an additional open owner’s award for all open-company races in New York with a minimum claiming price of $30,000. There are two tiers similar in structure to the breeders awards.

For New York sired horses, first through third place finishers receive an additional 20 percent of the purse money capped at $20,000 per award. For non-New York-sired horses, first through third place finishers receive an additional 10 percent of the purse money capped at $20,000 per award.

The various incentives, purse money offered, and opportunities to run highlight that is pays to be a New York-bred on the NYRA circuit.

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