by Richard Ball, New York State Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets
It has been a difficult year for all of us, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting our personal lives and presenting unprecedented challenges for industries and businesses across the nation. The state’s equine industry, including our standardbred breeding industry, is no exception. It also faced uncertainties and disruption amid the pandemic earlier this spring as the racing season was delayed and additional measures were put in place to ensure the safety and protection of all New Yorkers. Yet, more than ever, we celebrate the championship events this coming weekend and our success in offering a strong stakes season, within a shorter window of time, that continued to provide New York’s high-quality standardbreds a consistent opportunity to earn robust purses.
The New York Sire Stakes program, one of the nation’s premier standardbred programs, moved forward in 2020 with a slightly modified race program, yet still distributed $10.2 in purses and will host more than 500 separate events this year. Nine youngsters have already earned more than $100,000 in New York Sire Stakes purses and one outstanding filly, 3-year-old trotter Love A Good Story, has dominated her division to accumulate a quarter of a million in earnings from the Sire Stakes this season in advance of the finals. Her counterpart on the pacing side, Hen Party, has also eclipsed the quarter of a million-dollar earnings mark with her New York performances, including a victory in the Empire Breeders Classic.
On the other side of the spectrum, new guaranteed minimum purse levels on the statewide New York County Fair circuit helped to strengthen the value of fair racing as a training ground for young horses and attracted new participants in the industry. Fair associations and our horsemen did an outstanding job of coming together to help make this happen.
The New York Sire Stakes is the foundation for a strong standardbred breeding industry in New York. It has a widespread impact on agriculture — from farms to training facilities and veterinarian services – and is a driver of the New York economy.
We have a lot to be proud of when it comes to our standardbred industry in New York, and New York State is committed to its continued success. We were pleased to showcase the County Fair Champions at Goshen Historic Track last weekend and celebrate an exciting season of racing at fair sites across the state. We look forward to several major events coming up, including the Excelsior Finals at Tioga Downs Friday and the $1.8 million New York Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday.
I also wish much success to our breeders offering their yearlings at the upcoming Goshen Yearling Sale, the first major auction of New York-bred standardbreds this year, and to all our breeders throughout the fall auction season.
Moving forward, we will continue to adapt to the opportunities and challenges ahead and make decisions for the direction of the program that support breeders and highlight New York’s standardbred industry. We look forward to 2021 and continuing the 60-year tradition of offering the nation’s leading Sire Stakes program, with its three tiers of outstanding competition, to showcase the best of New York State.