USTA facilitates possible collaboration with French
The USTA has actively endeavored to find a solution to our industry’s nationwide horse shortage problem. One proposal which may soon become a reality involves creating a vehicle for American trainers to purchase French-bred trotters.
Borne from the 2018 experience of importing 26 French trotters, and after the USTA spoke with many trainers, a plan evolved with France’s Le Trot to establish a structure in France for testing, vetting and videotaping as part of a process of selecting and presenting a group of trotters to the American market. Those trotters would be 3-year-olds through 5-year-olds that are non-winners of four pari-mutuel races or 50,000 euros (about $53,000) lifetime, and older horses that have reached their lifetime earnings level and can never drop down again.
The price points will vary, but the discussions center around numbers varying from 20,000-35,000 euros to a higher price point for horses that have exceeded their lifetime earnings. At all price points, we believe this project can duplicate what we have experienced on the pacing side from imports coming from Down Under that still have a lot in the tank.
Le Trot’s International department, headed by Emmanuelle Morvillers and Marianne Simonnot, collaborated with USTA Director of Registry TC Lane and me to hammer out the details. In sum, Le Trot will vet the horses, while veteran driver/trainer Pierre Vercruysse, breeder Claude Guegan and owner Christian Le Barbey will seek out the candidates to be presented for auction or outright sale. Pierre has unique knowledge of the American market after a five-year stint here. Vetting was scheduled to begin June 28 (after this magazine was sent to the printer). It will involve a complete inspection, blood work and an endoscopic examination. Videos and offerings will be made available soon thereafter.
After the initial discussions, the USTA removed itself from the process. This project, which took approximately nine months to develop, was recently brought to the attention of David Reid of Preferred Equine Marketing and is believed to be moving forward in a joint venture between that company and Le Trot. It is hoped that such sales will become reality online once all logistical problems are overcome.
In order to alleviate shipping costs, a full planeload of horses will be scheduled, though some may want the option to import his/her selection on an expedited basis. While the euro still commands a five- to six-percent premium against the dollar, the shipping cost is less than that charged from Down Under and the acclamation period is much, much shorter for any horse coming from Europe, especially since France is in the Northern Hemisphere and the seasons are the same as in North America.
Years ago, the USTA recognized the danger presented to the gene pool by overutilization of certain dominant sires in our sport and Rule 26.06 was adopted to limit annual matings to 140 mares. The USTA continues to engage the scientific community in gene-pool analysis, with a view toward preserving the breed, enhancing performance and avoiding conformation defects. Le Trot has also begun to consider the need to expand the French trotter gene pool. While it is not certain whether that consideration will reach across the pond to American stallions, it is nonetheless being pondered in France.
In 1937, the French stud book was closed to horses not bred in France. It was reopened for a brief time in the 1980s, when most notably Workaholic (the winner of the very first Breeders Crown race, the 2-Year-Old Colt Trot) was purchased by the French and imported to stand at the French National Stud. While it is by no means a given that the French will reopen their book to American blood, the time is ripe for that discussion to take place. In addition, horses with 100 percent American blood were imported to France and resulted in some of the country’s greatest trotters, among them the international star Coktail Jet, a son of a French stud and Armbro Glamour (Super Bowl-Speedy Sug, by Speedy Count). Coktail Jet is the sire of Love You, the sire of the Hanover Shoe Farms stallion International Moni. American-breds provided a perfect outcross for the Le Trotteur Français.
Some of this nation’s leading breeders were scheduled to meet with the new Le Trot President Jean-Pierre Barjon and France’s PMU official Guillaume Maupas. Barjon and his team will discuss the possibility of reopening the French stud book to expand the gene pool and open up commerce between our countries. Those who will make the case include USTA District 1 Director R. Kevin Greenfield of Hickory Lane Horse Farm, Tom Grossman of Blue Chip Farms, and Jim Simpson of Hanover Shoe Farm. The occasion for in-person discussions were scheduled to take place in late June in conjunction with a tour organized by Le Trot to stud farms, sales and racing in Paris and Normandy.
In addition to working to collaborate with the French on breeding and commerce of horses, USTA Director Dr. Andy Roberts met with Dr. Artaud Duluard, the head of the Breeding, Health and Animal Welfare Department, to exchange ideas as to how to more efficiently address antidoping measures.
Those joint efforts by Le Trot and the USTA hopefully will bring us closer together, leading to a greater exchange of our breeds, possibly breeding a better trotter, and maybe—just maybe—opening up a new sales and breeding market. The USTA directors continue to work tirelessly to make global exchanges work for the industry worldwide.
In sum, we need horses, France has plenty of trotters, and we both have the need to outcross.
The views contained in this column are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association. To comment on this column, email us at email@example.com.