First, an apology to the ROA President if I seem to have stolen his lines and this reads like the owners’ leading article, but I believe it is essential for our sport in general and breeders in particular that we attract more owners, and then encourage owners to own more horses, if racing is to thrive.
The TBA wholeheartedly agrees with the ROA’s commitment to sell the excitement and thrill of ownership. We believe we should do so in ways that do not always hark back to prize-money returns and the cost of keeping a horse in training, but extol the enjoyment to be had from being an integral part of the sport.
It was necessary to move away from direct breeders’ prizes, which had little to do with the ownership of the horse, to Plus 10 and MOPS
Most of us don’t expect a return on our other recreational activities and leisure pursuits, so we need to promote ownership for what is to so many people – fun.
Even so, the carrots of prize-money and bonuses cannot be overlooked. That’s why the TBA felt it so necessary to move away from direct breeders’ prizes, which had little to do with the ownership of the horse, to Plus 10 and MOPS (the NH Mare Owners’ Prize Scheme), both of which substantially reward the owner rather than the breeder.
MOPS was deliberately framed to ensure that the rewards go to the owners’ connections, where they will be most effective in changing behaviour. We still have Breeders’ Incentive Schemes to directly encourage British mare and stallion owners and the combination should support and encourage National Hunt breeding.
Plus 10 is a much larger Anglo-Irish scheme, which everyone is coming to understand, and it has given trainers and owners a real incentive to purchase and be involved in qualifying horses and those who are qualified.
Hopefully the publicity gained in the first year of the scheme has helped to encourage ownership by demonstrating the rewards for success. Already it is pleasing to welcome the first three-year-old winners of Plus 10.
The initial thrust of Plus 10 was that breeders should contribute at various stages, but the TBA also wanted them to be rewarded for their support. Following the success of the first year, the committee asked a wide range of breeders for their thoughts and ideas for improving the scheme, and as a result we have decided that all breeders and pinhookers who support the scheme will benefit, regardless of whether the new owner continues the registration.
Breeders who registered a foal born in 2014 or later will now earn £1,000 (or €1,250) for registering the winner of a Plus 10 race at both the foal and yearling stage. We hope this change encourages an increased number of breeders to take part in the scheme, and as Plus 10 and MOPS move forward more breeders and owners should benefit.
The recent announcement that the government intends to extend the Horserace Betting Levy to offshore bookmakers is extremely welcome, and hopefully its implementation will produce considerably more funds for the sport, including to boost prize-money.
Racing must be imaginative in using this extra money to encourage breeders and owners, so that the sport can grow. Horsemen must be integral to these discussions and they should be prepared to think outside the box as we move into a different era, where our racing is used for betting on a multitude of platforms.
As breeders, we strongly believe in meritocracy and testing the breed. The system of handicaps that now dominates our racing is not necessarily the best way to achieve this result. However, with more money available we may be able to run a more meritocratic system that rewards the better performers. This may be the one chance in a decade to reform the racing programme by putting right some of the anomalies to have built up over the years.
Owners and breeders at every level want to see horses rewarded according to their ability, and having reached the point of owning a reasonable horse, it is frustrating to any owner when that horse fails to win at handicap level. It has to be worth exploring alternatives that work so well in other countries.
Above all, though, let’s make ownership simple, fun and rewarding.