A dive into a bonus pool

by Trey Nosrac

A little history. One year ago today, after viewing advertisements, bulletins, testimonials, pedigrees, photographs, and archived races, I compiled a list of eight possible sires for my broodmare. For demonstration purposes, to protect the innocent and avoid litigation, I will use Extra Incentive as a pseudonym for one of the sires on my list.

Extra Incentive and the other seven sires on my list were not heavyweights. They were between $3,000 and $6,000. If I squinted hard, my unscientific mind could make a case for booking any of these eight sires because the differences were both subjective and razor thin. In the end, I did not select Extra Incentive last year.

I was not the only customer who did not sign a breeding contract for this sire. In his first season at stud, Extra Incentive bred a mere 25 mares. Nevertheless, Extra Incentive reappears on my season’s list of possibilities for this season.

For hypothetical reasons, I asked myself, what could the connections of Extra Incentive do to tip the scales and push their stallion up my list? What could the owner of Extra Incentive do that would possibly lure more customers like me? Should they slash the already low fee, bombard the market with expensive advertising that did not pay off the first year, finger rosary beads, or move the stallion to another state with less competition? The options for a fringy stallion are limited.

Here is a possible scenario. All it requires is a simple sentence added to advertisements this season:

Upon qualifying as a 2-year-old, each owner(s) of an Extra Incentive will receive a check or gift card for $500. In addition, the breeder will receive a voucher for $1,000 on a future Extra Incentive breeding (if the sire is still standing stud).

This promotion takes long-range planning. The babies in this crop will be born during the first half of 2023. In the fall of 2024, yearlings will sell at horse sales. In 2025, many of those now 2-year-old standardbreds will gather behind starting gates and attempt to meet the qualifying time for excited owners. The qualifying standard for each pari-mutuel racetrack varies slightly at commercial racetracks, typically in the range of a 2:08 second for a mile for a 2yo trotting horse, a few seconds faster for pacers.

A qualifying day is a significant event for owners of racing hopefuls. For me, it is the most exciting day of the year. Some 2yo horses will make the required time with ease, others will struggle, and many will never qualify for racing. In 2025, the owners of 2-year-old trotters sired by Extra Incentive will smile more broadly because the customers will find tangible rewards.

The bonus money will not be official earnings. The bonus or award is a thank you to customers having faith in Extra Incentive back in the breeding season of 2022 and sales in 2024. Buyers and breeders take note. No strings, no gimmicks, no purse money is involved. The concept is straightforward — if you breed to Extra Incentive this year and the resulting horse qualifies, owners and breeders receive bonuses in 2025.

Would this Extra Incentive be of value to breeders or potential customers? Would this bonus proposal be worth the time, money, and effort?

Who knows?

This incentive does not seem to have a downside, and the administration is not complicated. This perk might tip the scale for me as a breeder and buyer. The deal-sweetener might make me raise my hand in the auction arena a few additional times. I appreciate that the ownership of Extra Incentive are creative people and believe enough in their stallion to make this offer.

If this promotion was in effect last year, and if half of last year’s Extra Incentive 2-year-olds qualify, the cost would be about five grand in bonus money, the price of a few paid stallion advertisements. The project would be cost-effective if the bonus program brought two new breedings.

Passing out bonus money on qualifying dates would be fun for stallion owners, fun for the 2-year-old owners, and fun for the breeder, not to mention great PR. All the promotion requires is a few lines of notification and a little Extra Incentive.