It is always interesting to hear how thoroughbred breeders are regarded by other sections of the racing industry, and I was struck by the contrast between comments made recently by two trainers.

One referred to how lucky he felt at being supported by owner/breeders, who sent him half his annual intake of yearlings and therefore provided variety and stability to his string. The other said he dreaded his owners becoming breeders, because, in his words, they sent him whatever they bred regardless of conformation or looks – and this just after a homebred two-year-old, whom he admitted he would not have bought, had won at a major meeting!

It must be the aim of the TBA, working with the Racehorse Owners Association, to encourage more owners of successful fillies to take them on to stud, where they can enjoy the involvement that goes with formulating mating plans and watching the foals grow up.

When the bloodstock sales world is dominated by agents, it is easy to believe that every horse has to conform to a preconceived set of standards and looks

When the bloodstock sales world is dominated by agents, it is easy to believe that every horse has to conform to a preconceived set of standards and looks, if it is to be any good on the racecourse. The reality is that horses of every shape and size win races.

While commentators are liable to point out how a particular big-race winner “has grown into himself”, or herself, and “looks magnificent,” it is hardly a surprise that they failed to spot these qualities when the horse first appeared at the sales or on the racecourse. Luckily, we participate in a simple sport, one that is all about performance, and is not a subjective beauty parade.

Now that we are in the middle of the yearling and foal auction season many commercial breeders will judge their success by the prices achieved at the sales. Of course, profit – or at worst the limitation of losses – is the essential ingredient for making any breeding operation viable, but in the end it will be racecourse performance that brings back the buyers and ensures the stud’s success.

Keeping good-class fillies to race and ultimately to breed from is often part of this cyclical process, and is one of the reasons that the Plus 10 bonus scheme, with its bias towards fillies, was brought in.

There have been other bonus schemes over the years but Plus 10 is unlike its predecessors and is not solely sales-orientated. It is designed to encourage buyers to invest in fillies at auction but also to encourage breeders to race their fillies and, hopefully, to return the winners to their studs.

As well as providing an incentive at the sales, through the realisation of higher prices, Plus 10 may also encourage breeders either to consider keeping homebreds to race for the bonus or defraying some of their costs by bringing in partners, or even, if a breeder does not wish to pay training fees, encouraging a group to lease the filly with the potential of winning the prize.

The satisfaction of owning a homebred winner and returning the successful filly to stud has many advantages. Don’t just take my word, for there have been two outstanding success stories for British-based owner/breeders this Flat season.

Golden Horn wrote two significant chapters when he won the Derby and Eclipse Stakes for Anthony Oppenheimer, whose Hascombe & Valiant Studs also owned the colt’s dam. And when Golden Horn had his unbeaten record halted in the Juddmonte International Stakes, who should break the sequence but Arabian Queen, whose owner/breeder Jeff Smith’s Littleton Stud has now raised three generations of the filly’s family over the last 20 years.

Knowing a family’s habits and traits gives the breeder a much better chance of finding the best mating, as well as an understanding of how to handle the offspring. Most of the best breeders have developed families, and whether the scale is a couple of mares or a much larger band, this should surely be our aim. Such breeders do not always follow the latest trends, which in turn gives less fashionable stallions a better chance of establishing themselves.
A system, supported by Plus 10, which encourages breeders to race their fillies must be good for all the sport.