Pennsylvania breeders awards funds being released

HARRISBURG, Pa. — More than 300 thoroughbred horse breeders who have been awaiting award payments since February will soon see those payments restored after Governor Tom Wolf signed reforms to the state’s Breeding Fund, according to Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. The bill was signed on Oct. 28.

Among other things, House Bill 2303, now Act 115, which was sponsored by state Representative Martin Causer, fixes an unintended consequence of the equine racing industry reforms enacted in February 2016 that changed the criteria for payments under the state Breeding Fund award program.

“We could not have arrived at this point today without the cooperation of the General Assembly, the administration and the state’s breeders,” said Secretary Redding. “We’ve heard from a number of Pennsylvania’s breeders about the hardships they’ve experienced over the past eight months while they’ve waited for the awards their horses earned. We’re incredibly pleased to have been able to resolve this issue, but also, that we’ve created the potential to further incentivize breeding activity in the state, which benefits our broader agricultural industry.”

Historically, the Pennsylvania Breeding Fund awarded breeders of registered Pennsylvania-bred thoroughbred horses that placed first, second or third in races at the state’s licensed racing tracks. Act 7 of 2016 inadvertently changed the eligibility criteria for those awards, removing the Pennsylvania-bred requirement and instead only required winning horses to have been sired in the state.

This unintended changed essentially rendered the program unable to be administered, thus preventing the payment of awards earned since Feb. 23, 2016. Through June—the most recent month for which the state Horse Racing Commission has records — those award payments amounted to about $2.5 million.

Under Act 115, the program’s qualifications are restored to their original form for the remainder of 2016 and retroactive to Feb. 23, but the legislation does create the opportunity to further incentivize breeding activities and attract more stallions to stand and sire in Pennsylvania.

Beginning in 2017, the breeder award as a percentage of the purse earned increases from 30 percent to 40 percent for those registered Pennsylvania-bred thoroughbred races horses finishing first, second or third that are also sired by a registered Pennsylvania sire. Additionally, if $10 million is deposited into the state Breeding Fund in any year above what is deposited in 2016, a larger share of remaining dollars will be set aside for purses and bonuses to Pennsylvania-bred and -sired thoroughbreds.

The new law also moves the reforms contained in Act 7 plus the amendments of Act 115 into the commonwealth’s Agricultural Code.