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Racing commission to revamp breeders' incentive fund

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to restructure the state's Thoroughbred Breeders' Incentive Fund, which has been shrinking because of dwindling taxes on stud fees.

Beginning next year, Kentucky-bred horses that win the Kentucky Oaks or the Kentucky Derby will be eligible for a $50,000 bonus for their breeders, rather than the $100,000 available since the fund began five years ago. The Oaks and Derby awards remain the highest individual bonuses in the program, and the reduction frees up money for other incentives.

The fund provides bonuses for horses that are conceived and foaled in Kentucky. The program was designed to boost the horse industry by requiring breeders to keep the mares in Kentucky year-round rather than shipping in and out.

Funding for the program comes from the sales taxes paid on stud fees. The state also created separate incentive funds for Standardbreds and for other breeds.

Jamie Eads, director of the incentive funds, said the changes came after an eight-month review with breeders and others in the industry, comparing Kentucky's awards program with those in other states, most of which are boosted by revenue from slot machines. The review concluded Kentucky's incentives needed an update to remain competitive, she said.

Awards had been weighted in favor of races won in Kentucky; in the future, the awards will reflect the caliber of the race regardless of where the horse wins. And winners of top races in Dubai, Hong Kong and Japan also will be eligible.

Eads said data showed up to 80 percent of the horses foaled in Kentucky never race here; instead, the state exports top-quality Thoroughbreds to a worldwide market.

In other action, the racing commission announced the formation of a committee to scrutinize the use of race-day medication in horses. It will be led by commission vice chair Tracy Farmer.

Some racing-industry groups have called for phasing out the use of all race-day medications, including anti-bleeder drugs, and it will be the subject of an international summit at Belmont Park in New York on June 13 and 14.