Sweet Lou popular but breeding totals decline in 2023/24

Sweet Lou is now officially the most in-demand stallion in this country.

After serving 82 mares last year that figure has skyrocketed to 262 in 2023-24, thanks largely to the success of the stallion's progeny across the Tasman,spearheaded by the likes of Spirit Of St Louis and Cantfindabettorman, and Horse of the Year Confederate in North America.

Figures from the latest breeding season (August 1, 2023 - February 29, 2024) show that Sweet Lou, standing at Woodlands Stud, was the most prolific of all stallions in this country, ahead of Downbytheseaside (116 mares) and Captain Crunch (107).

Captain Crunch, the best-performing son of Captaintreacherous, was the most in-demand stallion for the previous 12 months with 159 mares, with "The King" Bettor's Delight second on 151.

In the 2023-24 season Bettor's Delight's number was down to 98, while a newcomer to the stallion ranks in this country world record holder Bulldog Hanover served 44 mares this breeding season.

The top trotting stallion numbers-wise was newcomer King Of The North with 74.

Overall the breeding numbers were down for the season, with 1758 mares served in 2023-24, compared to 1966 for the corresponding period the previous year.

"This year's figure is not a disaster but it is less than we had hoped for," says Harness Racing New Zealand's acting Chief Executive Mauro Barsi, "it represents a decrease of around 10 per cent."

"The figures have shown us again that getting breeding numbers up in the next few years is an absolute priority."

To see the season's breakdown click here 

Ironically the decrease comes at a time when Entain's takeover of the TAB has injected a lot of positivity into the industry. Among its initiatives, in conjuction with HRNZ, has been to establish a lucrative bonus scheme to encourage the breeding and racing of 2YOs."

“The Entain $12,000 2YO Bonus scheme is operational. Seeing is believing. Owners and breeders will start receiving their bonuses. We are very hopeful this will contribute to increased numbers being bred this season and beyond,” says Marsi.

The figures also coincide with a new Horse Utilisation report that shows that many horses, including nearly half of all mares and fillies, never make it to the racetrack.

“There is untapped potential in the qualified horses that never get to race in this country, for example about 200 qualified from the 2016 crop and did not race here.”

That report is now up for discussion with submissions closing on March 8.

To find out more click here 

"It's imperative we maximise the horse population we have," says NZ Standardbred Breeders Association Chair Colin Hair, "and with the mares and fillies in particular we have to get more of them racing."

Currently there is a breeding credit scheme in place where mares and fillies win $1000, $300 and $200 every time they win or place second and third in mares and fillies' only races. That money is used to offset stallion fees when they finish racing.

"Expanding that mares' credit scheme looks like a sensible option," says Hair, "it encourages them to race and then helps encourage breeding when their on-track careers are over."

The NZ Standardbred Breeders Association welcomes any feedback and can be contacted at [email protected]

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