$1m plus breeding incentive announced for this season

The standardbred breeding industry is about to get a more than one-million-dollar boost.

A brand-new incentive scheme has been agreed to by the Harness Racing New Zealand Board that will reward breeders (the Breeding entity as listed on HRNZ system) who breed mares this season.

The decision follows months of consultation between the Board, HRNZ senior management, a specially tasked Breeding Focus Group, the Standardbred Breeders Association and the country's largest studs and many other interested parties.

"We have to do something and do something big," says HRNZ Chief Executive Gary Woodham, "the current trend shows a five to 10 per cent decline on foal numbers every year and that is not sustainable."

The new incentive scheme would come into effect this year.

"We are looking to incentivise breeders," says Woodham, "we have to stabilise and then increase the number of foals being produced."

"We want breeders to have their foals this breeding season and then go again, knowing they will get a $1000 credit on their next stallion service fee."

So how does this work?

A stallion service fee credit will be given to the breeder for any mare that produces a microchipped foal this season (2022/23) and the breeder rebreeds the same mare or another mare in its place and obtains a 42-day positive pregnancy test.

The credit can only be used for the stallion service fee. It is not exchangeable for cash.

The credit cannot exceed the stud fee - if a stallion is standing for $800 then the breeding credit will reflect that.

The credits cannot accrue and must be used within the breeding season they are earned.

Only one stallion service fee credit can be used per mare.

Here is an example:

A breeder has an in-foal mare, and the resulting foal is microchipped. When that mare or another mare owned by the breeder gets a 42-day positive test the stud will invoice the breeder for the stallion service fee minus the $1000 credit which will be sent to HRNZ for payment. HRNZ will pay the stud the $1000 difference.

Extra Incentives:

There are also extra financial incentives for breeders to produce more foals than they did this year.

For instance, if a breeder has two foals in the 2022/23 season that will be known as their "base rate". If in this season they breed an additional mare and they produce another foal over and above their "base rate" they will receive a $3000 stallion service fee credit when the foal is microchipped and upon the mare being rebred and obtaining a 42-day positive pregnancy test i.e. in addition to the other two mares who will get the $1000 breeding credit each this season.

Similarly, if a breeder did not produce any foals this year but sends a mare to stud this season which in turn produces a live microchipped foal next year, they will receive a $3000 stallion service fee credit when the mare is re breed and obtains a 42-day positive test.

Taking it a step further if a breeder with a 2022 "base rate" of three has five more microchipped foals next year (i.e. 8 foals in total) they will be eligible for up to $15,000 in credits ($3000 per foal for the 5 foals from the additional mares) upon those mares being rebred and obtaining 42-day positive tests plus the $1000 per foal for the 3 base rate foals.

Here is an example flow chart (click for larger size)


The foal crop is declining at a marked rate. A total of 1367 foals were registered in 2022, a 59 per cent decline in 20 years and the lowest since the mid-1960s. If something is not done, then around one thousand foals will be born in 2026.

The number of racehorses this year is 2457. That number could drop to 2075 within the next five years.

Live foals:

Increasing the percentage of live foals is imperative. Currently the percentage stands at around 70%, with approximately two thousand mares being served each year.

"If we could lift that to 80 per cent it would see an extra two hundred foals born every year," says Woodham, "the total would go from 1400 to 1600 foals."

"The challenges facing the sport is not unique to harness racing. It is acutely felt by other codes as well. But we must act and act fast."

FAQs -

Q. Does this breeding incentive apply to new breeders as well as existing ones?
A. Yes, they will get the $3000 service fee credit when the mare they breed this season produces a live microchipped foal next year, is bred again next year and gets a 42-day positive test

Q. What happens if there is more than one person in a breeding syndicate - do they share the credit?
A: Yes, however it is only able to be redeemed on one stallion service fee.

Q. Do you have to use the same mare each year to get the credit?
A. No, the credit goes to the breeder not the mare.

Q. What happens if you breed less horses this season than you did last year, are you eligible for the stallion service fee credit?
A. Yes, you will get one service fee credit per mare upon obtaining a 42-day positive test.

Q. Will there be any stipulation that the foals will have to stay in NZ to race?
A. No that is not our intention, people will make their own decisions about where and how they will race their horses. This is all about increasing numbers in the first place.

Q. How is HRNZ going to pay for this?
A. We have made allowances in our budget and some reserves are being used to pay for this capital breeding incentive. Breeding more foals is critical for our sport to remain financially sustainable. We cannot afford not to try and reverse the current trend.

Q. Will the scheme go beyond next year? Or is it a one off?
A. At this stage it is only for this season however depending on how successful it proves to be it may be revisited for next season.

More racing opportunities for all

HRNZ is also committed to maximising the current horse population to ensure bigger fields, more competitive racing, and ultimately higher turnover on races throughout the country which is critical to allows us to improve our Gross Betting Revenue.

Fillies and mares play a significant role in this, and they are our future broodmares. As part of the HRNZ strategic plan the Board is looking to:

  • Increase opportunities for fillies and mares to race each other. With the target for fillies and mares’ races being 16% of all races by 2026/27.
  • Programme races on a regular basis for horses whose stallion service fee is less than $6000 for pacing and $4000 for trotting
  • Create pathways for horses at all levels and create opportunities for the lower grade horses to race competitively.

"Research overseas shows us that if we do this properly, we could have as much as a 55 per cent increase in horses actively racing," says Woodham, "that would have massive implications."

For any questions please email [email protected]


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