Stud farm owners sue Jockey Club, Commission over breeding limits

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – Three of Kentucky’s biggest stud farms have filed a lawsuit challenging The Jockey Club’s rule to restrict Thoroughbred stallions from breeding with more than 140 mares each year – the so-called “Stallion Cap.”

Filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Kentucky, the complaint argues the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has unlawfully delegated power to The Jockey Club, and that the new rule breaches the constitutions of Kentucky and the United States as well as federal and state antitrust laws ( Jockey Club Complaint.docx ).

Spendthrift Farm, Ashford Stud and Three Chimneys Farm owners filed the lawsuit, arguing the ‘Stallion Cap’ is a “blatant abuse of power” by The Jockey Club.

In addition, the suit claims the rule change is “arbitrary” and “anti-competitive” and will reduce access or drive up prices for many owners of mares looking to access top stallions. The rule also risks driving the best stallions overseas, as no other country with a thoroughbred stud book imposes a cap, the lawsuit alleges.

The plaintiffs believe The Jockey Club’s action will have a significant impact on the entire economic structure of the industry by undermining the value of thoroughbreds throughout the United States, with a consequent impact on jobs and livelihoods.

In addition, it places artificial restrictions on breeders’ abilities to decide for themselves the best course of action for their stables, the owners argue.

The plaintiffs state there is “no scientific basis” to support The Jockey Club’s argument that the rule change is necessary for the health of the thoroughbred breed or to promote genetic diversity. There are only 42 stallions in the 2020 season who were bred to over 140 mares, and the cap simply means excess demand will move on to the less desirable, less commercial stallions, making it more difficult for breeders to be profitable.

Some breeders have stated the new rule will lead them to simply get out of the business rather than tolerate it. No other country has seen a basis for introducing a cap, and the plaintiffs believe such a fundamental change cannot be taken unless supported by robust scientific evidence, the legal challenge claims.

Membership of The Jockey Club is by invitation only, and the decision was made by its Board of Stewards without discussion or a vote at the Club’s Annual General Meeting. The Jockey Club Stewards making the decision had clear conflicts of interest given they also represent or own various breeding and racing entities who stand to benefit now that owners of mares are being denied their first-choice stallion, the three stud farms owners state in their lawsuit.

“The introduction of the Stallion Cap by The Jockey Club is a blatant abuse of power that is bad law, bad science and bad business. A handful of individuals from a private club in New York have been allowed to make a decision that will negatively impact the future of Thoroughbred racing and breeding both in Kentucky and the whole country. We have filed this complaint to defend the industry from anti-competitive, un-American and arbitrary decision making that is not based on scientific evidence. If they can limit the number to 140, what’s to stop them from limiting it to 100 or 80 or any other number down the road? What if your mare isn’t one of the 140? We are really concerned about the small breeder’s ability to survive this,” said B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm.

The Jockey Club announced the rule 14c amendment on May 7, 2020, which, beginning with stallions foaled in 2020, limits the number of mares which can be bred to a stallion in a calendar year to 140.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, Central Division.

It argues the actions of The Jockey Club and KHRC breach sections 1, 2, 3, 8 and 29 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which are designed to protect property rights and limit delegations of power by governmental bodies to private entities.

In addition, it says the Stallion Cap violates the due process and equal protection rights of the three stud farms as guaranteed by the 5th and the 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. The suit also argues the rule violates the Sherman Antitrust Act and supresses competition.

The Jockey Club and Horse Racing Commission have not filed a response to the lawsuit or commented.

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