RSS Feed for this Blog

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Equine Insurers Yet To Adapt

- Thanks to reader onecalicocat for sending along this article regarding racehorse insurance from yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Horse insurance agent Ron Kirk, who is involved in still-ongoing negotiations to insure Big Brown for $50 million, discusses the concept of insurers increasing premiums for bloodlines deemed to be more fragile than others; an idea which has yet to take hold.

Mr. Kirk said his firm will, on occasion, charge owners an additional premium -- roughly about half a percentage point of the horse's value -- to guarantee a certain fertility rate for horses whose parents and grandparents have experienced breeding problems. But he said the industry hasn't reached any consensus on how coverage rates for active racehorses should be affected by injury problems in a particular equine family. Any policy written without considering a horse's pedigree is incomplete, he argued.
Mr. Kirk said that until the entire insurance industry agrees that certain individual bloodlines are more likely to produce unsound horses, there probably won't be any change in premium rates.

For most horses, an insurer will write the coverage based on a veterinarian's certificate showing that the animal is healthy, according to Joe Nicholson, an insurance agent in Lexington. "We don't refer to pedigree to see any propensity for breakdown or anything like that," he said. [Wall St Journal]
Kirk added that the pending insurance deal for Big Brown is "being underwritten by nearly a dozen different carriers."

If there's a likely candidate for an "inherent fragility premium" (I just made that up), it might be Native Dancer, the focus of recent talk about the breed, as described today by Jeff Scott in the Saratogian.
If Native Dancer and his primary heirs were proven to be a source of unsoundness, it would be bad news for racing since “The Gray Ghost” is the most important pillar of the commercial breeding industry. The industry’s two main “brands” (Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer) both descend from the 1953 dual-Classic winner. Mr. Prospector, himself not very sound, was a grandson of Native Dancer through the unsound Raise a Native. Northern Dancer’s dam, Natalma, was a daughter of Native Dancer.

Even worse news is the fact that Native Dancer’s genetic influence is only going to increase. Of the 82 young stallions (15 years and younger) with stud fees of $20,000 or more — a group virtually certain to play a major role in shaping the future of the breed — 80 have Native Dancer in their pedigree. Sixty-five have more than one strain, the vast majority through Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer. In all, 26 percent of the great-grandparents of these 82 young stallions trace back to Native Dancer. [The Saratogian]
Big Brown himself is inbred 3x3 to Northern Dancer; in fact, both his sire, Boundary (Danzig), and his dam, Mien (Nureyev) are grandchildren of that sire. He has no Mr. Prospector. As I've mentioned many times, he also has inbreeding to two sires of sturdier makeups - Damascus and Round Table. Hopefully, that will be enough to help get him through the end of the year unscathed.


Anonymous said...

He only has to get through 10 more days, at which time career ends due to chronic foot problem.

In fact, conspiracist in me wonders if this weeks entire hoof episode wasnt just general maintenance to begin with for this horse, with the goal to excuse the instant retirement party.

Believe Dutrow was quoted after the Derby that the Hoof Man would visit Brownie after the Preakness.

Anonymous said...

As for the insurance, instead of a pedigree analysis they should do a conformation analysis.

If I own a perfectly correct animal I should not have to pay the same rate as someone racing a badly conformed horse.

Anonymous said...

Real answer is to move to longer races--minimum 7fl max 2 1/4 Then real Thoroughbreds will reappear.