Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Dueling Down The Stretch

Why so Afraid of AI?

Ever since I first began to study and learn about the Thoroughbred racing industry I always questioned why Artificial Insemination (AI) was not allowed to take place. According to The Jockey Club, only a foal produced by a live covering can be registered to race, any foal produced by AI cannot. I understand that AI would be a big step in a new direction, and like with everything, there are risks, but from what I can see, the benefits far outweigh those risks. Both Standardbred racing and Arabian racing both allow AI and are no worse for wear. I see no reason that Thoroughbred racing could not make the transition as well.

One huge benefit of AI is that it is much less stressful on the mare. In the breeding shed the risk of injury is high, even when the breeding is monitored. Some stallions, such as Dynaformer, are known for their roughness in the shed. It is because of their roughness that maiden mares are not included in their books. When in the shed many mares will either be twitched, hobbled, or booted for control. Imagine if the mare fought back. The risk of injury to both would be high which is why restraint is necessary, because not every mare is ready to have a hot blooded stallion mount her from behind. Many horsemen will tell you that breeding is a stressful experience for a mare, especially one that is a maiden. If AI were to be implemented, the stress would be greatly reduced as would the chance of injury to two very valuable horses.

AI would open the door for genetic diversity. Yes, would breeders elect to breed to the sport’s most elite stallions, yes, but those stallions could be from all over the nation and possibly top sires in other countries. A breeder in California could easily ship over a tube of semen to the owner of a mare in Florida, while the mare stays comfortably in her stall. This would also eliminate another stress factor on the mare and cut shipping and boarding costs for her owner.

As mentioned above, AI would allow for breeders to breed their mares to the most elite stallions for years to come. With horses like Tiznow, Hard Spun, Curlin, Street Cry, and Medaglia D’Oro out there, how can that be a bad thing? They are known for their toughness, speed and durability. They are known for producing quality offspring that will last. Who is to say the US would not expand their horizons to Europe, should they be willing? Can you imagine the US having foals by the likes of Galileo?

Another benefit that I think would come from the use of AI is our star horses staying around longer. I know many think it is impossible for a stallion to do, that they would lose concentration. However, when one thinks of the racing season for a top three year old, their season will likely end in November and pick back up in March. That is a five month gap, where the stallion could return to the farm, have semen extracted and then rest up and return.

I understand that AI would be a big move away from what has been a big tradition in Thoroughbred racing, but no sport, no business can rely solely on the past. We need to move forward and try new things. Are there risks, yes, there are risks to everything in life. But if the good outweighs bad then there is no reason to move forward.


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Older Comments about Why so Afraid of AI?...

Wow, off of the reaction i got to tester on FB last night, I thought I would run into a lot more objection.
Thank You , Brooklyn Steve, You've summed it up well.
There is no reason to have it banned from racing, not in the least. Is this catch rate less, yes it is, but with the overpoppulation of foals that is not quite a bad thing. For those who are for about what is best for the horse think about the stress on the mares during a live cover. That would be almost eliminated if AI was allowed.
So glad you brought up this subject. This is not 1911, this is 2011. Times have changed. The racing industry is in trouble. Anything that can help should be done for the survival of the sport. AI should be allowed for numerous reasons. The biggest you touched upon. The best males race for 2 full years if we are lucky, and retiring at the end of the 3yo season is all the rage. Why? Because money is all this sport is about, and the bulk of it can be found in the breeding shed. With AI, you should be able to keep males on the racetrack for several years. Would some not return to form? Yeah, it's possible, but you won't know until you try. 2011 will probably be the 3rd year in a row a female wins HOY. We need a better product, and unless you get top male horses to race until they are 6 or 7 years old, that won't happen. People need to be more open minded, and think about what is best for the survival of this sport, and AI is one thing that can surely help.

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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred Racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2001. After that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at the now closed Virginia Intermont College, then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010 Laura came to Horse Racing Nation, but soon branched out to other media outlets, such as Lady and the Track, TwinSpires.com, and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter, while making a return to Horse Racing Nation, where she will once again feature her opinionated columns on the latest in horse racing. 

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