The TBA’s annual general meeting, celebrating the association’s centenary and held in the Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket in mid-July, provided an excellent opportunity for me to explain all the many and varied activities in which we are involved on behalf of breeders. It was a chance to demonstrate exactly how we are engaged with tackling the multitude of different issues that the industry faces and where and how we represent breeders across the board to ensure our collective voice is heard in the corridors of power, both nationally and internationally.
We have not been afraid to move with the times, for example in making the annual general meeting more than just an occasion to conduct the necessary formal business
The principles that today’s board and executive team follow are exactly the same as those that prompted the foundation of the TBA in 1917, namely to promote the interests of thoroughbred breeders in Britain and to protect and improve the breed. However, we have not been afraid to move with the times, for example in making the annual general meeting more than just an occasion to conduct the necessary formal business.
So, this year’s event featured two guest speakers – Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, and Chris McGrath, the Racing Post’s recently-appointed Bloodstock Editor. They explained their roles, and in Chris’s case he was able to air some personal views on breeding and the thoroughbred.
Brian spoke in his capacity of Chairman of the European Pattern Committee, and reminded us of all the good work his committee does and how those countries involved have come together. Not only have they maintained consistency within the European Pattern, but they have also examined thoroughly specific issues that needed addressing and have worked in a co-ordinated manner to achieve their aims.
For example, the well-balanced programme for older fillies and mares is now taken for granted, but ten years ago there were so few opportunities for these horses that at the end of their three-year-old careers most of them went to stud or were exported to continue racing in the USA, where there is an excellent programme for such horses.
The changes have worked extremely well and a good cross-section of four-year-old fillies and older mares are now racing across Europe, adding a significant enhancement to the racing programme.
Changes to the three-year-old sprint programme in Europe are more recent, but they too have been very successful. The paths taken by such as Muhaarar and Harry Angel have already justified the EPC’s vision.
Of course, both these programmes started out with the aim of addressing issues within an existing horse population. As Brian pointed out, realigning a pattern to steer horses that are already on the ground is very different from creating a pattern of races for horses that you hope will come along as a result of wide-ranging, and at times radical, changes.
This is why the ideas and proposals around an improved programme for stayers, to encourage the breeding and owning of horses capable of staying a mile and a half and more, is so much more a leap of faith. However, the very fact that the horse numbers are lacking in this area, compared with sprinters and milers, means that it is up to all of us urgently to address the problem before the decline reaches a point – as it already has done in Australia and the USA – where the gene pool shrinks to a level from which it is hard, if not impossible, to recover.
The TBA is at the forefront of this work and I will return to this subject later in the year.
Chris McGrath passed on some interesting thoughts on two-year-olds going to stud and stallion books in general. He had some controversial thoughts to pass on about the current cycle of shunning American-breds and reminded us of how influential Northern Dancer and other horses that raced on dirt had become in our modern-day pedigrees.
Fashion and the fashion cycle are just that, and those who lead the next trend, however unfashionable it is at that moment, and whatever that might be, are likely to be the winners. An interesting thought when we look at the current situation.