And who can blame these potential yearling buyers when slot-infused purses makes it more logical to go out and buy a ready to race horse either through auctions of racing stock, private sale, or the claiming game? After all there is the expense of upkeep and training of the horse which may or not make it to the races at age two, if at all. So what can be done to increase interest in the purchasing of yearlings, the point where the breeder's plan of the previous year is graded in black or red? Clearly, something needs to be done to swing the pendulum back towards buying yearlings instead of ready made racehorses.
While not the complete answer, one part of the solution could come in the form of owner rewards. Under the owner rewards model, purses would be supplemented with a purse enhancement to be paid out in overnight events to those horses where at least sixty percent of the ownership is maintained by the owner(s) who purchased the horse at a yearling sale or is a home-bred. In the case of multiple owners or partnerships, owners can sell or buy into a horse as long as sixty percent of the horse's ownership interest remains with the original owners to qualify. A horse can race in claiming race and not lose eligibility provided the horse is not claimed. If claimed, the horse looses its eligibility even if claimed back by the original owners.
How would this work? A horse with a qualified ownership entered in an overnight event (excluding claiming races or entered under an optional claiming condition) would be eligible to earn a purse enhancement. An overnight could be a race for maidens all the way up to an invitational. In each race a twenty percent (a suggestion) purse enhancement would be offered from the ages of two through six to qualified owners. The purse enhancement would be paid out to the top five finishers in the same percentages as regular purse earnings to those qualified. If a horse not eligible for the program finishes in the top five, the share of the purse enhancement which would have been awarded in that particular position would be returned to the purse enhancement pool for another race.
Making this better would be any money earned through the owner rewards purse enhancement would not count towards lifetime earnings with regards to determining the horse's classification for its next race. Also, the enhancement would go only to the owners, not subjected to the driver and trainer's standard five percent earnings.
Winning a $10,000 race would earn you a $1,000 bonus which may not open many eyes, but if you happen to be racing in a $35,000 Invitational at your local track and wheel off four or five wins in a row, the $14,000 to $17,500 in additional earnings most certainly will get your attention.
Of course, since such programs are organized on a state level, the owner rewards supplement would likely be restricted to horses which were sired or bred in a particular state. In this case, the implementation of a enhancement program would stimulate the interest in yearlings from that state.
Owner rewards, one possible solution to increase interest in yearlings. It's worth a look.