Virginia’s breeders benefitted from a continued business boom in 2023 courtesy of Historical Horse Racing (HHR) revenues at seven Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums located around the state and the continued renaissance of the Colonial Downs thoroughbred meet in New Kent which is expected to grow to 40 days in 2025.
Virginia breeder’s bonus monies distributed in 2023 nearly doubled that of levels from just two years ago — $1,850,000 versus $975,000 in 2021. Up until the 2022 campaign, bonus money had been paid for the win position only from races anywhere in North America. In the last two years (and moving forward) the bonus program was extended to reward not just wins, but seconds and third place finishes in any race including NSA sanctioned races. As a result, 65 different breeders earned awards in 2023 that came from 409 top-three finishes. In all, Virginia-bred horses collected 139 wins, 130 second place finishes and 138 thirds.
As Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums continue to expand in the Commonwealth and more HHR terminals are placed in operation, signs point to the Breeder’s Fund incentive program potentially growing even more in coming years. A new Rosie’s resort hotel called The Rose is expected to open in mid-2024. The Northern Virginia venue will feature up to 1,200 HHR machines and replace the current Rosie’s in that market which only has 150 terminals.
Topping the 2023 Breeders bonus leader board was Audley Farm Equine with $220,246 — from 31 individual awards. The uptick in award monies distributed has been dramatic. In 2021, the top bonus earning breeder, Morgan’s Ford Farm, received $126,694. Audley’s combined bonus checks that year amounted to $69,353. In this new era, Audley saw eight different horses they bred reach the winners circle in 2023 including Determined Kingdom, who had stakes scores in the Meadow Stable and Punch Line, Galilei, who crossed first in the Brookmeade Stakes, and Low Mileage, who was best in the Jamestown Stakes. All four victories took place at Colonial Downs and each produced a maximum $25,000 bonus return. In total, Audley recorded 11 wins, 12 seconds and 8 third place finishes.
Runner-up by monies earned was Morgan’s Ford Farm with $133,566. Their 36 awards came from 8 wins, 16 second place finishes and 12 thirds. Alex Joon, with $326,809 in career purse earnings, captured the Edward P. Evans Stakes and cemented a $25,000 award. The 7-year-old Flatter gelding cashed in from a trio of other bonus-earning performances at Keeneland, Oaklawn and Fair Grounds. Surya, who Morgan’s Ford also owns, did not reach the winners circle in 2023 but had five award-earning trips including a second and third in allowance company at Colonial. Morgan’s Ford also earned parts of 34 other awards in which they were co-breeders, which brought their total combined award tally to $251,000.
Ann Mudge Backer and Smitten Farm took third place among bonus earners with $121,923. Among their 15 awards were six wins – four from Secretariat Stakes (G2) winner Gigante — to complement four runner-up finishes and a handful of thirds. Gigante’s other stakes wins were in the Woodchopper (Fair Grounds), Commonwealth Turf (Churchill) and Caesars Handicap (Horseshoe Indiana). The Backer/Smitten combo also connected with Just North at Laurel and Baytown Beaver at Mountaineer.
Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III herself scored five rewards, but all were for impressive 6-year-old Tapiture gelding Repo Rocks who won four stakes races in 2023. A career earner of $803,371, Repo Rocks prevailed in the G3 Westchester Stakes at Belmont, the Stymie and Toboggan Stakes at Aqueduct and the Blitzen Stakes at Parx. In all, Repo Rocks provided $108,886 in bonus monies. Horses bred by the Iselin family amassed $159,297 in awards.
Daybreak Stables’ scored $96,454 in awards, much coming from two horses that had stellar campaigns — Mystic Seaport and Naked and Famous. The former had six wins, including five claiming race victories in a row between August 31 and December 10. The five-pack included wins at Colonial and Delaware Park and three at Laurel. The 4-year-old daughter of Midshipman earned four other awards for second and third place finishes. The latter, a 6-year-old Upstart gelding, bagged four triumphs that included an allowance score at Colonial and three claiming wins at Aqueduct. Overall, Daybreak had 13 wins, one runner-up and six thirds.
Breeder Sam English II, whose year mirrored Iselin’s, received three winning bonus checks courtesy of Chambeau’s stakes wins in the Camptown and Tyson Gilpin/Glen Petty at Colonial, and an allowance win — also at Colonial — sandwiched between the two. In all, English’s late blooming 7-year-old mare captured four bonuses in New Kent — of five he received which totaled $85,917.
Note that single bonuses in the incentive program are capped at $25,000. In 2023, there were 14 bonuses awarded at that maximum level. The Virginia Breeder’s Fund is generated by a percent of every dollar wagered in Virginia via HHR, OTB and ADW betting. The Virginia Racing Commission approves how the Fund monies can be used and distributed.