In its recently released annual Fact Book, The Jockey Club has estimated that there will be 19,925 foals born in the U.S. in 2018. If those numbers hold true, it will mark the first time the U.S. foal crop has dipped below 20,000 since 1965, when there were 18,846 registered foals.
The 2018 number represents a 4.7% decline from the estimated foal crop number for 2017. The number of foals born peaked in 1986, when there were 51,296.
Most of the other breeding related figures in the fact book do not go past 2017, which was a milestone year for the California breeding industry. With 2,450 mares bred, it passed Florida as the second biggest breeding state in the U.S. behind Kentucky. The Jockey Club records on how many foals were born in an individual state go back to 1991 and from that point to 2016, Florida was the second biggest breeding state every year but one. It was surpassed in 2010 by Louisiana. In 2017, there were 2,450 mares bred in California as compared to 2,194 in Florida.
Among the top 10 breeding states, only Pennsylvania saw an increase between 2016 and 2017. A total of 629 mares were bred in Pennsylvania in 2017 verus 529 in 2016.
The breeding industry in New Jersey, the only racing state in the East Coast that does not have casino subsidies, continues to be devastated. Only 20 mares were bred in the Garden State in 2017, tying it with Missouri, a state that does not have racing, and putting it only two mares ahead of Utah. In 1991, 581 mares were bred in Jersey.
For the 2017 season, Spendthrift’s Into Mischief led all sires in terms of mares bred with 235. But his lead may not last long. The Darby Dan stallion Dialed In was next at 231, a remarkable jump from the prior year when he was bred to 91 mares. The top 10 are rounded out by Uncle Mo (204), Bodemeister (192), Oxbow (187), Violence (187), Temple City (186), Maclean’s Music (181), Flat Out (178) and Munnings (178). First-timer California Chrome was bred to 145 mares.
The most notable trend in the auction ring was that it was a rough year for the 2-year-old sales. The average price fetched for a 2-year-old at auction in 2017 was $43,799, a whopping 41.8% decrease from 2016. That 3,082 2-year-olds were sold versus 2,347 the year before may account for some of the declines in average price.
On the other hand, the weanling and yearling sales had good years. The average price paid for a weanling was $64,553, up 8.2%. The average price for the 6,689 yearlings sold was $71,254, an 18% increase.
On the racetracks, most numbers held steady. The average field size in 2017 was 7.70, a slight increase from 7.59 in 2016. The average number of starts per runner was 6.21, virtually the same as it has been every year since 2008. Tracks are adapting to the smaller foal crops and keeping field size intact by reducing the number of races. In 2017, it was 40,846. In 2000, it was 60,872.