News and STORIES

Farms Sue The Jockey Club Over Mare Cap

Author: Don Mckee
Published: Tuesday February 23, 2021

The decision taken by The Jockey Club to limit the number of mares that can be bred in a farm was frowned upon by three of Kentucky's biggest Stud farms. Ashford Stud, Spendthrift Farm, and Three Chimneys Farm came together to sue The Jockey Club for the so-called "stallion cap." The rule, which went into effect on May 7, 2020, dictates that no farm is to breed over 140 mares each year. The basis for the disagreement is that The Jockey Club is abusing their power and that it threatens to disrupt the free-market nature in the industry.

Things got official after the farms came together to file a complaint in the US District Court in Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. Jonathan Rabinowitz, who is the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission chairman was named as a defendant in the suit. The basis of the suit is that members of The Jockey Club who voted in favor of the rule only did so to satisfy their selfish interests. The farms strongly believe that there is no basis for the rule and that it goes against the organization's mission, which is to facilitate the soundness of the Thoroughbred breed.

Another individual mentioned as a defendant in the suit is the Racing Commission's executive director, Marc Guilfoil. It is worthy to note that both individuals who are marked as the defendants in the lawsuit did not have any direct involvement in the decision-making process. However, it is deemed that they failed to carry out their duty of overseeing how the Thoroughbred registration authority is delegated to The Jockey Club by the state.

The Jockey Club's Defense

In their defense, the rule was implemented to address a concern in the Thoroughbred gene pool. A study showed that the genetic diversity of stallions has continued to reduce since 1996 in those that breed over 100 mares. Also, the rule was introduced gradually and only affected stallions foaled in 2020. Those born in 2019 and earlier are still allowed to breed over 140 mares in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

In the eyes of the farms, this rule will only bring about the elimination of the economic viability of such foals, create scarcity and increase in prices for those looking to access top stallions, and ultimately, an increased risk of driving the best stallions overseas where there are no caps.

According to the lawsuit filed, "The refusal of The Jockey Club to register a Thoroughbred completely devalues that horse on the open market because it cannot run in Thoroughbred races or breed other Thoroughbred racehorses."

Foul play is being detected as it seems like these stakeholders that made the decision are looking to benefit themselves. Joining The Jockey Club is by invitation only, and the decision was made by the stewards only, excluding a vote at the Jockey Club's annual general meeting. There is a conflict of interest on the part of the stewards as some own various breeding institutions that will benefit a great deal with this rule.

In all, the farm owners stated that the lawsuit was filed mainly to defend the Thoroughbred racing industry from arbitrary decision-making that is not based on scientific evidence.