According to a recent Blood-Horse article, through the first three major yearling sales this year (Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July, Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select, and Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred sale), 467 of 622 yearlings offered have sold (75.1%), compared with the same three sales in 2012 which saw just 434 of 669 yearlings sell (64.9%). Last year total North American yearling sales saw an RNA rate of 22.8%, which was the lowest yearly rate since 1999.

While some would prefer the days when the total number of horses being sold was higher—even if it means higher RNA rates—the current reality of smaller foal crops makes this unrealistic. In the current environment, insiders suggest the reduced buy-backs point to a market that has reached more balance between supply and demand.

The most recent figures from The Jockey Club show Texas has 417 live foals reported for 2013, out of 1,014 mares bred for a live foal rate of 41%. Of the fifty states, only Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee had live foal rates of 50% or better.

What are the factors that affect live foal rates? I found one study on the internet that offered the following information:

“It is very interesting to note that there is a significant increase in live foaling percentage as booksize increases. This increase may be associated with increased management intensity as booksize increases. The stallions with the larger books were well known, were on the larger farms, and likely represented a greater financial investment in stud fees for the mare owners. Therefore, it is likely that these stallions and the mares bred to them were subjected to greater management intensity. For example, the managers of mares being sent to these stallions may have found it financially feasible to utilize lights to hasten the first ovulation of the year, frequent teasing schedules, early pregnancy testing by ultrasonography and other management practices to ensure an optimal chance of producing a live foal. Interestingly, the foaling rate for smaller books was about 45% per season.

“There is a significant decrease in live foaling rates as mare age increases, but not as stallion age increases. A major factor in the per-season reproductive success of a mare is the potential number of cycles on which a mare can be bred – or on which a mare is available for breeding. For the study population, about 68% of mares first bred in February produced a live foal from a cover that occurred sometime during that breeding season, whereas only about 40% of mares first bred in June produced live foals. The live foaling rate for Farm mares first bred in February was 82%. The live foaling rate decreased an average of 9% for each month that first breeding was delayed. There are 3 possibilities to explain these results: 1) a decline in fertility as the breeding season progresses, 2) groups of mares bred earlier in the year are more fertile than groups bred later in the year, and/or 3) more breeding opportunities for the mares first bred earlier in the year. While all three factors may play a role, our studies indicate that the third factor has the greatest influence on a successful breeding season.”

The study can be accessed at ttp://$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/hrs6946.

The three-day International Simulcast Conference in Lexington will commence at 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, with a series of sessions devoted to the urgent need to improve and enhance the customer experience at tracks and simulcast facilities.  Other topics to be discussed during the Oct. 7-9 conference will include:

• An update of the TRPB Tote Security Initiative
• New wagering mixes
• State tax policies for ADWs
• Video production of races
• Impact of declining horse population and countermeasures

Thoroughbred Times, the Lexington-based publication that has been shuttered since it entered bankruptcy a year ago, plans to relaunch online in early 2014 — but without staff writers — said David Bradshaw, a breeder and owner who bought the Thoroughbred Times trademarks, copyrights and domain name out of bankruptcy earlier this year.

Content will include news of the industry, racing, sales, horse health, and breeding largely aggregated from news releases, with no staff writers to produce original content. Free-lancers and fans can submit articles for consideration. Free-lancers will be paid, Bradshaw said.

According to a recent press release, beginning with the 2014 breeding season, all foals by stallions who are nominated to the New York Stallion Stakes Series will be automatically eligible for all of the New York Stallion Stakes Series races without a nomination fee. Under current rules, a nomination fee must be paid for both stallion and foal.

As in the past, stallions will be required to nominate to the series by mid-February, with a fee of $2,500, or the stallion’s advertised stud fee (whichever is higher), but beginning with foals of 2015 (2017 series), any foal sired by a nominated stallion will be automatically eligible for the series at no charge.

“This is a terrific way to increase participation in the New York Stallion Series races and everybody wins—stallion owners, breeders, owners and the racetrack operator,” Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, said in the release. “Nobody falls through the cracks because a breeder or buyer forgot to nominate a foal, and there will be a bigger pool of horses to draw from when the races come up, which will make for a better series.”

This is certainly something to keep in mind, should Texas ever be successful in securing additional sources of purse money to fund our Stallion Stakes.

NOTES: ATB Awards checks for the Gillespie County race meet have mailed…The September/October issue of Southern Racehorse will be arriving soon…Best wishes for a speedy recovery to trainer Allen Milligan who had bypass surgery on Monday…The Maryland Racing Commission has now adopted uniform medication and drug-testing rules as part of a push in the Mid-Atlantic region, with the new regulations to take effect January 1, 2014.