Murray Brown, longtime director of public relations for Hanover Shoe Farms and general manager of the Standardbred Horse Sales Company in Harrisburg, has written the following in letter regarding the sport's purse structure.
"The relatively low sale prices for Idyllic and Martiniontherocks at the Tattersalls January Mixed Sale at the Meadowlands Monday illustrates the problems Standardbred breeders and their clients, those who are selling quality bloodstock after their racing careers are over, face today.
"If Thoroughbred mares with the same credentials were being offered at a major sale, the likelihood is that they would bring somewhere in the neighborhood of a million dollars and perhaps even more.
"From my perspective, a great part of the reason that breeders find themselves in this pickle is because of the outmoded purse structure found at most harness tracks today. Often mid to low priced claimers have the opportunity to race for as much, if not more money, than they are worth. Whereas the person who has spent a great deal of money for a well-bred yearling and has sometimes spent even more training and staking them finds the opportunity to race them in other than stakes events very limited and the opportunity to race them for significant money virtually non existent. Why would they want to continue doing this when they can get instant gratification and satisfaction by claiming or buying a ready-made racehorse?
"Granted, they are still some "sportsman" types out there who relish a challenge and are motivated to secure the very best. Buying quality yearlings is still the best way to achieve this. Sadly, the number of sportsmen types keeps diminishing.
"Is it any wonder that the demand for racehorses is still very strong, whereas the prices for even the best bred yearlings with the exception of a chosen few continues to plumet?
"The time is coming--sooner rather than later--when those who are looking and willing to pay well for racehorses will find that the well has dried up. The vast majority of breeders are bleeding money with no foreseeable expectations that things will get better.
"It's time that the horsemen, the horsemens' associations, and the racetracks realize that every claimer and overnight horse out there was once a yearling. If a way out of this dilemma is not found soon we will run into a very serious shortage of horses at our stables and in our races."