The US Jockey Club is defending its recently introduced rule that places limits on the annual breeding of individual Thoroughbred stallions, after a lawsuit was lodged challenging its position.
Three major Kentucky horse farms have labeled the rule an anti-competitive restriction and argue that it threatens to disrupt the industry.
The suit filed in the US District Court by Spendthrift Farm, Ashford Stud and Three Chimneys Farm names the defendants as The Jockey Club, and executives with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
The studs contend that the rule violates the state and federal constitutions as well as antitrust laws.
The Jockey Club issued a statement defending the new rule, publicly proposed as a draft rule in September 2019 and adopted as a final rule in May 2020.
The rule effectively restricts younger Thoroughbred stallions from breeding with more than 140 mares each year.
The Jockey Club says the rule reflects its goal to preserve the health of the Thoroughbred breed for the long term. It applies prospectively to stallions foaled in 2020 or later. It does not apply to stallions already standing at stud.
One of the drivers of the rule change was a scientific study showing an increase in inbreeding in Thoroughbreds between 1996 and 2006, during which the number of stallions covering 100 or more mares jumped from 14 to 128.
The club said it had sought comments during the draft phase and had received many thoughtful comments, which 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,” its statement said.
“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.”
The suit notes that, under the rule, the Jockey Club won’t register foals beyond a stallion’s matings with the first 140 broodmares in any given season.
That, it says, completely devalues a Thoroughbred because the horses would not be able to compete in races or breed with other racehorses.
“As a result, the highest quality thoroughbred horses will be bred less times than market economics would otherwise dictate,” the suit asserts.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars of stud fee revenues will be impacted; all owners of mares will pay higher prices to breed their mares; and less well-connected owners of mares will be precluded entirely from access to high-quality stallions.”
It further argues that the rule could drive the most popular stallions overseas to other countries that do not have such a cap.
B. Wayne Hughes, of Spendthrift Farm, said in a press statement that the stallion cap amounted to a blatant abuse of power that was bad law, bad science and bad business.
“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.”
The suit seeks injunctions against The Jockey Club and punitive damages.