Well, here it is! The 100th issue of Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder has arrived and it provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past eight years and ask the question: how far has the horseracing industry come in that time?
If we start by taking a look at the very first magazine, produced back in September 2004, you would be forgiven for answering with ‘not very far at all’, at least in the political spectrum.
The debut ROA Leader column was penned by the then President, the late and much-missed Chris Deuters, and came with the headline: ‘Desire for harmony can’t disguise our funding fury’.
Best Mate, hero of three Cheltenham Gold Cups, was still in action when the first magazine was produced
In short, Deuters explained why the ROA was prepared to make concessions with regard to the details of the ‘Modernisation of British Racing’ document, concerning the future funding of the sport. “We could not bring ourselves to create a disunited industry,” Deuters said. “The consequences of blocking the document’s recommendation would have been dire… and led to the collapse of the whole future strategy.”
Fast forward to this month’s ROA Leader and it’s pretty much the same sentiment expressed by President Rachel Hood, this time in relation to “internal complications” within the Horsemen’s Group. “Allowing the Horsemen’s Group to fail would have been a sad testament to racing’s inability to work together,” says Hood. The more things change, the more they stay the same…
More amusing – or not – is Deuters’ confident assertion that “the Levy Board will close in 2006. It will be replaced by a commercial mechanism between the racing industry and bookmakers. Racing’s product is based on data rights and it is these rights that bookies will pay for from 2006 and beyond.”
It sounded so good – too good, in fact, and our friends in the European Court of Justice subsequently decided that bookmakers should not have to pay for the data they receive. The Levy Board, creaking and outmoded, was taken off the scrap heap and survives to this day. So much for the promise of the ‘Modernisation of British Racing’.
On the racecourse, the last eight years have seen some of the greatest thoroughbreds ever to grace the Turf. Indeed, it might be said we have been – and perhaps still are – in a golden age of British racing.
Best Mate, hero of three Cheltenham Gold Cups, was still in action when the first magazine was produced. Sadly he was to die the following year; it would have been difficult to imagine a chaser taking his mantle, yet, finishing second in the same race that witnessed Best Mate’s demise, was a five-year-old named Kauto Star.
Clive Smith’s chaser, who was retired at the end of October after a career that yielded two Cheltenham Gold Cups, five King George VI Chases and a host of other big-race victories, proved the catalyst for a resurgence in British jump racing.
His battles with stable companion Denman, himself pensioned earlier this year, brought more people to the races and new fans to the sport. Both horses, wonderfully campaigned by trainer Paul Nicholls, leave a gaping hole in the National Hunt scene but, as history tells us, who’s to say the next superstar isn’t around the corner?
The same thing could be said on the Flat, with Sea The Stars’ brilliance quickly followed by the freakishly talented Frankel. One thing is certain: there are, thankfully, plenty of people willing to part with their cash in an effort to either breed or buy a champion.
Kauto, Denman, Sea The Stars and Frankel all, unsurprisingly, feature prominently in our look at ‘100 moments in racing and breeding’, which does exactly what it says.
Clearly, it would have been impossible to feature every notable incident to have happened during the magazine’s existence therefore we’ve been through each issue and picked something from each. Not exactly scientific, but, we hope, enjoyable nonetheless.
I would like to wish all our readers a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year.