Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jola Szubielski, Lisa Koumjian 518-457-0752

August 02, 2016

State Agriculture Commissioner Tours Thoroughbred Horse Farms to Highlight Importance to the Agriculture Industry

Equine Industry Contributes Billions of Dollars to New York’s Economy, Supports Job Growth and Strengthens Agricultural Community

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball today toured several New York Thoroughbred farms in Saratoga County to highlight the importance of horse racing and breeding to the State’s agricultural industry.  Joined by the New York State Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., Commissioner Ball toured the Innisfree Farm in Galway, McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs, and the Irish Hill Century Farm in Stillwater to get a first-hand look at some of the State’s top, high-quality horse breeding facilities and their Thoroughbreds.

Commissioner Ball said, “It’s an exciting time right now for horse racing in New York State with the historic Saratoga Race Course meet underway.  Saratoga hosts the highest level of horse racing in the country and showcases the very best racehorses bred right here in New York and from around the world.  It’s great to get a look at the industry beyond the racetrack and behind-the-scenes on the farm.  In addition to providing jobs and a significant boost to the economy, the equine industry, including the Thoroughbred racing industry, is critical to our growing agriculture community.”

According to a 2012 study commissioned by the New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance, New York’s more than 2,300 horse farms, riding stables and training centers support the protection, maintenance and recovery of more than one million acres of agricultural lands and green space. The facilities bolster agricultural support services, such as veterinarian care and farm equipment sales and repair.  The industry also aids in the growth and production of key agricultural commodities, such as feed, hay and straw.  Cornell Cooperative Extension reports that 40,000 acres of hay are harvested each year for horses in the racing industry.

In addition, the report estimates New York’s equine industry as having a multi-billion dollar direct and indirect impact on the state’s economy and generating tens of thousands of full-time jobs, such as horse trainers, veterinarians, farmers, feed suppliers, breeders, grooms, and blacksmiths, among others.

Jeffrey Cannizzo, Executive Director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. said, “A thriving equine industry is vital to the health of the New York State economy and to agriculture. We are pleased to join the Department on this tour of several, diverse horse breeding farms that exemplify our world-class New York Thoroughbreds. This is an excellent opportunity to emphasize the significant impact of the equine industry—a $4.2 billion effect on the state’s economy, including 33,000 full-time jobs and $187 million in state and local taxes for New York. We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure the continued success of the New York horse racing industry.”

The Innisfree, McMahon and Irish Hill Century Farms together have more than 1,500 acres of land.  On their tour, the group first visited the Innisfree Farm, located in Galway.  Innisfree is a 20-acre family-run farm with 14 horses.  Scott Gregory has owned the farm for three years but has been breeding horses for more than two decades. For the first time, he’ll be selling four of his horses at the annual Saratoga and New York-bred Preferred Yearlings Sales.

The McMahon Farm has approximately 1,000 acres and 300 horses in Saratoga Springs.  The farm is the birthplace of Funny Cide, the first NY-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby.  Funny Cide also won the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, in 2003.  In addition, the McMahon Farm has bred horses that, so far, have won 32 Thoroughbred races this year. 

Rounding out the tour, the group also visited the Irish Hill Century Farm.  The owner is a fifth generation farmer who turned the farm into a full-care Thoroughbred boarding facility that is dedicated to the breeding, foaling and sales preparation of horses.   The farm today includes 500 acres of land and 140 horses, from foals to broodmares to stallions.  They have six employees and plan to hire another three later this year. 

Joe McMahon, managing partner of McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds said, “The horse industry in New York is a real gem. It employs people and preserves green space. It's a huge tourist attraction through the race tracks, especially in Upstate New York.  I am very happy that the Commissioner of Agriculture took the time from his schedule to come here and ask the questions that need to be asked to ensure the future success of the industry.”

Rick Burke, owner of Irish Hill Century Farm said, “The horse racing and breeding industry is important to the economy and agriculture and we're pleased the Department of Agriculture and Markets was able to tour Irish Century Hill Farm and see the pride we take in our operation. Our farm, and so many farms across the state, help keep land from being developed and ensure the livelihood for so many. From the hay and straw we produce to the people we employ, the impact is extensive.  It's important we work together to grow the industry.”

New York is home to some of the best Thoroughbred and Standardbred horses in the nation.  The state is the birthplace of some of the nation’s top racing division horses including Funny Cide, Effinex, who was named the 2015 NY-bred Horse of the Year by the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., and La Verdad, who won the Eclipse Award as the American Champion Female Sprint Horse in 2015.

The State boasts 11 racetracks—seven harness tracks for Standardbred horses and four Thoroughbred racetracks, including Saratoga Race Course.

Additional racetracks in New York State include:

  • Belmont Park
  • Aqueduct Racetrack
  • Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack
  • Buffalo Raceway
  • Batavia Downs Gaming
  • Tioga Downs Casino
  • Vernon Downs
  • Monticello Gaming Raceway
  • Saratoga Casino Hotel
  • Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ mission is to foster a competitive food and agriculture industry that benefits producers and consumers alike. The Department, through its various divisions and programs, works to promote the agricultural industry and its world-class products, foster agricultural environmental stewardship, and safeguard the State’s food supply and agricultural animals to ensure the growth of the industry.

The Department operates the Great New York State Fair, and administers the Taste NY initiative, the FreshConnect and new New York State Grown and Certified programs.   Follow the Department on its Facebook page and on Twitter.

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