After serving as a Trustee of the TBA for 12 years, including eight and a half years as Chairman, Julian Richmond-Watson stepped down from his record-breaking tenure at the 106th AGM held in the Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket on October 6. I am proud and honoured to have taken his place as Chairman.
Julian leaves big boots to fill. He has been an exceptional Chairman and friend, who has supported the TBA and the breeding and racing industries unfailingly. He transformed the TBA Board to suit the needs and requirements of the breeding industry. Thankfully, his wise counsel will not be lost to us.
One of the resolutions passed unanimously at the AGM was the facility to appoint an Honorary President. It is not a new position and has appeared and disappeared over the years with no apparent explanation. The Trustees decided that now is the right time to bring it back, since the TBA’s remit has grown and grown, not only at the production line but also at higher industry levels, where it is important for breeders to be represented.
Julian is the Honorary President we need. He has overseen the development of a professional and achieving executive team at Stanstead House, as well as a Board of Trustees who have worked well together, something to which every Chairman aspires but not all manage.
I can personally vouch for Julian’s qualities, having served as his deputy since 2018. Some will have regarded us as ‘the odd couple’, because of our very different backgrounds. Indeed, Julian alluded to this in his AGM address, when he pointed out: “I wear long trousers, Philip usually wears shorts!”
That’s as maybe, but we worked extremely well together. I admit I am an acquired taste, which might have something to do with being a village policeman’s son from near Stevenage, whose secondary-modern schooling gave me a great education. I tend to say what I think and do what I say – not everyone in the industry is prepared to listen to someone like that, but to his credit Julian did.
I hope the same will apply with my own deputy, Kate Sigsworth, who joined the Board in 2020. Perhaps we can make another odd couple.
Having been a TBA Trustee since 2012, I have served my apprenticeship. I don’t particularly like the word ‘passionate’, but it comes as close as anything to describing my feelings about British thoroughbred breeding. This is a world-class, hugely important industry, and the TBA is making a big difference to maintaining its legacy.
For my own part, I have been an owner-breeder for the best part of 40 years and have to admit that while I am unashamedly commercial in business matters, that approach does not extend to my breeding operation.
In a working career that began with no special purpose, doors opened up and I walked through them, until I became CEO of a substantial retail PLC in 1998. We built up the company from a modest share price to one 30-40 times higher. Eventually it was acquired by the international health and beauty retailer AS Watson, and I moved on to other executive and non-executive roles.
As far as breeding is concerned, I dipped my toe into the commercial market and quickly took it out again. I now have three mares and race everything myself.
I’ve been fortunate to breed Group winners, starting with Teamster, who won the Henry II Stakes and Sagaro Stakes (twice) and was beaten a neck in the Doncaster Cup; then there was the Park Hill Stakes winner Hi Calypso, and Rob Roy, who won and was second in the Sandown Mile and runner-up to Pride in the Champion Stakes, all trained by Sir Michael Stoute. I have also had a number of National Hunt winners and trained point-to-pointers for a few years with some success.
I cannot say there was a grand plan to the breeding and racing of any of them. They all came despite my interference, I suppose. In fact, they mirrored my business career, as I have always believed in taking and making the most of all and any opportunities that come my way.
Yet the key to my success has been to ensure I had the right people around me all of the time. That’s still the case today, and it is very much the case with the team at the TBA as we set out on another chapter of the association’s history.