In writing my debut Leader column for Owner Breeder, I would like first to thank Nicholas Cooper for his outstanding work as President and particularly for his calm leadership that has taken the organisation from strength to strength in recent years. Racing has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. From watching the racing on TV and being given the task of trying to work out my father’s Yankee returns, to owning and breeding horses – and sometimes winners – it is a true passion. Taking on this role is an absolute honour. Representing your voice, both inside and outside the industry, is fundamental to ensuring owners’ and breeders’ views are not only heard but also acted upon.
I come to the role in the middle of one of racing’s most perilous periods. The Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing suspension of the sport threatened businesses, jobs and communities, as well as severely impacting owners and breeders. For racing to endure this crisis we have to come together. We must rebuild together and we must create an industry and a sport that works for all of its participants.
As President, my focus will be on growing the sport of racing. That means increasing public interest in the sport to get more people going racing. It means growing ownership: getting more people to fall in love with the experience of owning a horse, expanding syndicate participation and representation, and engaging with the next generation of racing enthusiasts and hopefully owners. It is a thrilling, exhilarating and captivating experience that should be open to all. To achieve this we must grow the revenues of the sport and secure their fair distribution.
The current crisis has exposed many of the shortcomings of our sport’s structures and how systematically it has allowed horsemen’s interests to be derogated and transparency to be lost. However, the crisis may have given the entire sport an opportunity to reassess and realign.
We must take this opportunity to reboot our sport with new impetus, to properly analyse where our sport can be improved to reward its participants and to encourage its growth. All stakeholders – owners, breeders, racecourses, jockeys, trainers, stable staff, the regulator – have to align their interests, grow the pot and see the value of a bigger, better product.
“The current crisis has exposed many of the shortcomings of our sport’s structure”
The first order of business has to be to negotiate a new set of revenue sharing agreements. We need to negotiate and agree a fair set of long-term deals that recognise the role of horsemen and fairly remunerates them for the income they generate and the investment they make. Our aim is to work collaboratively with the racecourses to establish these agreements and convince racecourses to see the value of proactively engaging with horsemen on such an integral and existential issue for the future of racing.
This issue isn’t new. Since the judgement by the European Court of Justice over 15 years ago, racecourses were recognised as the beneficiaries of the media rights created at their venues. At the time, it was agreed that a share of this new income stream should be to the benefit of the participants in those pictures, originally on a 60:40 basis. That recognition formed the basis of the first agreements. However, where we sit today, the concept of a legitimate and fair share of this media rights income has evaporated to nought. We need to recapture the balance between racecourses and horsemen.
To date, the support from people I’ve seen (socially distanced of course!) at the sales and elsewhere has encouraged me that this is the primary issue and that a wide range of horsemen feel the same. As we move to the next stage of resumption, I am determined that the sport’s participants continue the campaign to see horsemen fairly remunerated.
Without horsemen there is no sport and no industry. Passion alone cannot be enough to sustain us. The ROA and Horsemen’s Group will be working tirelessly together to ensure that owners, breeders and all horsemen are properly represented and treated fairly.
Our sport is at a crossroads; to rebuild successfully it must listen to the people that make it what it is.