West Virginia horses breeding success


A major ingredient in breeding, owning and racing horses in West Virginia revolves around programs that award horses bred and foaled in the state.

Designed to financially encourage and support the horse racing industry in the state, the West Virginia Thoroughbred Development Fund was founded in 1984.

Along with the West Virginia. Thoroughbred Breeding Association founded in 1968, earnings and percentages are calculated under legislated formulas. Checks are then sent annually on Feb. 15 to owners and breeders of winning West Virginia horses.

Here is how it works for most Russell Road horses living in Clarke County, Virginia, – winners of more than $7 million during the past 10 years.

While the broodmare may live on Virginia’s Russell Road, when she is ready to foal, she is taken to a West Virginia breeding farm so the foal is birthed in that state.

The foal then becomes eligible to receive accredited thoroughbred earnings during a calendar year from West Virginia’s two racetracks – Charles Town Races in Charles Town, West Virginia, and Mountaineer in Cumberland, West Virginia.

The broodmare may also have been bred to a resident West Virginia stallion – a requirement every other year for the out-of-state mare. Breeding season runs Feb. 15 through June 15 with gestation averaging 340 days.

The foal comes back to Russell Road known as a weanling until Jan. 1, no matter when birthed. Every horse born the prior year, becomes a yearling on Jan. 1, now their official birth date.

“The goal is to race them in May after they become a 2 year old,” said Bobby Lloyd, a horse breeder who lives on Russell Road.

“Generally speaking we send the yearlings in late fall for 60-90 days to be broken and then they return to winter on Russell Road,” said Lloyd.

“Then usually around the first of April, depending upon the weather, we send them into serious training to see how fast they might be as a racehorse as a 2  year old,” he added.

Patricia Harper, another Russell Road horse farmer, said she “loves the baby season” when mares have foals and wonders, “What is the new crop going to look like?”

Not counting a sliding scale for a stud fee, breeding, raising, training and running a racehorse can cost $30,000 before the first race and “It can be pretty hard to recover unless you get a really good one,” said Harper.

“I call it the theory of three,” said Ray Pennington, her fiancé. “One horse should break even, one I will have to give to my niece and then a good one. If you win at a 20-25 percent clip, that is phenomenal, but that means you get beat 75 percent of the time.”

“When you are in the breeding business, you have to wait three years before you get on the track,” said Harper. “There is a lot of hard work and effort but a lot of pride and pleasure when they win.”

And while Russell Road horses have been very successful, horse owner Naomi Long remembered her legendary Charles Town Races  trainer Ray Benton.

“He warned me the business has its ups and downs,” said Long. “It’s a tough game but he taught me to enjoy the good times because there are more downs than ups.”

Contact Tom Crosby at news@nvdaily.com