On a picture-perfect Friday in Sunbury, the Ohio Selected Jug Yearling Sale drew buyers interested in the first crop of stallions for harness racing. By the time the gavel dropped, the highest priced yearling in the sale fetched $80,000 and the average price paid for the 159 horses in the sale reached $23,000.
The sale’s success and rise of Ohio’s equine industry is tied to the number and quality of its breeding stallions. Ohio ranks first nationally in the number of standardbred stallions breeding in the state.
Harness racing has a long history in Ohio. From a county fair in the 1820s to the Central Trotting Circuit in the 1870s, harness racing thrived until thoroughbred racing took off. But it made a comeback in the 1950s and again in the 1990s. Today, harness racing is a mainstay of the county fair circuit. In fact, Ohio has the largest and longest parade of county fair harness racing dates in North America.
The interest in all types of horse racing in Ohio is good for breeders like Midland Acres, started by the late Dr. Don “Doc” Mossbarger, a large animal veterinarian, now owned by his sons, John, also a veterinarian, and Jay. Midland Acres began breeding horses in the late 1960s, and by the mid-1990s, the hard work had paid off. They had acquired more than 500 acres and were breeding around 700 horses a year, becoming one of Ohio’s largest horse farms.
The Mossbargers welcome the renewed excitement in the breeding and racing industries in Ohio.
The 2016 Ohio Standardbred Development Fund (OSDF) will be worth $5.79 million, up 4.2 percent from last year under a proposal approved by the Ohio State Racing Commission Jan. 26.
The OSDF, which provides money for state-bred purses, supplements and breeders’ awards, has greatly increased the last few years because of racetrack video lottery terminal revenue and a quarterly cut of revenue from four non-track casinos in Ohio. The influx of this new revenue has greatly improved the farm economy in the amount of grain, hay and straw consumed by the increased breeding program in Ohio.