Just short of two months into my term as Chairman of the TBA and it’s time to set out the main principles that the association will follow in a ‘top-down, bottom-up’ approach aimed at effecting change in the economics and fortunes of British thoroughbred breeding and racing.

The first principle is that prize-money is the only game changer throughout the entire industry structure. It affects everyone, from the smallest breeder to the biggest owner.

Secondly, there is a need to acknowledge that many people have so far suffered disappointing sales returns in Britain in 2023, with results in the market generally falling back significantly from those achieved last year.

We may be coming up to the Christmas period and the traditional season of giving, but uppermost in the principles must be a need to understand that deficiencies in the bloodstock industry can only be fixed with bold, imaginative, radical thinking and self-help.

Looking at the top-down approach first, it must be accepted that premier racing, which was a fundamental upon which the BHA built its strategy in forming the 2024 fixture list, provides a once in a generation opportunity to fix the finances of British racing properly. It is as important as the introduction of the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act, which with imaginative thinking would have passed on the lasting financial security that the industry needed. It is as important as the events of 1987, when the industry failed to make the investment to control its picture and media rights.

Premierisation represents the same opportunity to achieve what Britain’s major football clubs did in February 1992, when an original 20 teams got together to form the Premier League, which has become the biggest and most financially attractive league in the world.

British horseracing has more than its fair share of marquee fixtures and racecourses. Put these together in a compelling and attractive programme, marketed and sold with a campaign of consequence, and there is a very valuable product to sell.

Sceptics may ask, ‘Okay, but to whom does this have real value?’ Well, a global betting platform to start with. The World Pool, driven by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and UK Tote, is showing what can be achieved – other markets are now showing interest in our opportunity. With the quality and integrity that British racing offers, our ambition is the only limit. It also has value to a global investment partner. Just as other sports have seized their chances worldwide, British racing’s profile and potential customer reach represents an opportunity to transform its relationship to sponsorship and partners.

Not every racecourse and raceday can qualify as premier. Indeed, the supply needs to be carefully controlled to encourage demand, but the rewards it will bring can and will carry with it a responsibility to support, fund and develop the core daily offering.

However, a word of warning. British racing cannot continue to rely upon the income levels it currently receives form the domestic betting market. Ageing demographics and competing gambling options will continue to develop apace, and without significant change British horseracing will get left behind. The sport must think globally.

And so to the bottom-up approach, by using every penny generated to achieve a real return on investment and demanding aggressive financial thinking to make differences at every level and every delivery. Incentive and intervention can and do work in the breeding shed. In three short years, the Great British Bonus has significantly boosted demand for British-bred fillies, with increased sales returns of more than 16 per cent, halving the differential between a colt and filly’s value. The TBA, with the support of the Levy Board, will consider further opportunities to enhance and develop GBB, which is just a single example of what can be achieved through self-help and industry support where money spent achieves a targeted outcome.

Having changed perceptions for breeding, buying and racing British-bred fillies and mares on the Flat and over jumps through GBB, the need now is to look at other areas of thoroughbred production, applying intervention and incentive measures in support of the TBA’s remit as the custodians of the breed.

This will all take bold, imaginative and most of all brave leadership. The TBA will be first in line to support that approach.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas as we look forward to a year of positive change in 2024.