Letter to the TDN Editor: Frank Shipp

Frank Shipp is the General Manager of Lazy Lane Farm in Upperville, VA.

FRANK SHIPP

Via Thoroughbred Daily News today:

In light of recent events impacting global health, perhaps it is time to review two controversial proposals in our industry. The first, seemingly backed by The Jockey Club, is a limit on stallion books. The second, seemingly forever opposed by that same august regulatory body, is some well designed use of artificial insemination.

One could reasonably suggest that the two would work best in tandem. Limits on stallion books would, at least in the short term, begin the process of promoting diversity in the thoroughbred gene pool by giving slightly lesser quality(perceived) male stallion prospects the “working economics” to become viable on more than a regional setting-at least theoretically increasing the demand for these males “down the line” to auction sales, where the perception of marketability in yearlings has narrowed in sync with that of the lesser stallion prospect. Allowing AI will help eliminate the term “regional” from our stallion nomenclature altogether, and greatly reduce our need to “over-transport” our breeding females and-for non-Kentucky resident mares- their young foals, at their most vulnerable stage of life, creating a much healthier outlook for overall hardiness of the breed. Shipping semen carries no known risk at all.

The “integrity” issue of AI disappeared with the arrival of DNA testing, leaving only the “Kentucky factor” as a major hindrance. I would argue that, given the Commonwealth’s proven environmental advantages over most other states, along with the presence of arguably the most powerful auction companies (and their facilities) in the world, AND (in years without war or pandemic) the first class racing at Keeneland and Churchill Downs (with our most famous race), a mass exodus of breeding stock would be highly unlikely, and any expansion of breeding in other states would inherently increase the economic impact in those areas, enhancing our sport’s political prospects moving forward(imagine an expanding foothold in Georgia?).

Our current model requires dangerous levels of transportation of mares, foals-and humans-during the mad rush of the breeding season, and is now even threatened by further travel restrictions during this pandemic. Could this be the final element in a transformation of our business model that makes it safer for all? We’ve heard arguments pro and con for these issues-how about the two together? Of course, international governing bodies would have to agree, but given the near nightmare(pun intended) scenarios in other thoroughbred countries at the moment, it might not be such a hard sell. I remain philosophically committed to allowing market forces to guide our business decisions. I remain even more in favor of making sure we have a viable market, and a thriving sport.

Sincerely,

Frank Shipp

Upperville, VA

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