Thanks go to those industry stakeholders who gave time and thought to the TBA’s recent profile and strategy review which proved extremely useful in highlighting what the organisation does well, and in certain areas not quite so well.
Our veterinary work and research received high praise, which is a reminder that we must continue to focus on this particular aspect, since it is so vital to all of us on the ground. There was a timely illustration in last month’s publication of the Levy Board’s veterinary science and education investment programme for 2016, with which the TBA is heavily involved.
We must continue to keep in focus the diminishing effect of vaccines and drugs, which has already been highlighted in other species
There will always be challenges in this area, and we must continue to keep in focus the diminishing effect of vaccines and drugs, which has already been highlighted in other species. The major pharmaceutical companies have many demands on their research budgets, so we have to demonstrate the thoroughbred, as an important part of the whole equine sector, is large enough to attract their attention.
The International Thoroughbred Breeders’ Federation, of which the TBA is an active member, has already established that demonstrating the numbers involved worldwide has helped to focus these companies on theopportunities available in selling their products to an international customer base.
The major criticism from this research was that the TBA’s profile is too low, that we do not communicate the good work we do or stress how important breeders are to the racing industry. This is probably a legacy of the association being too ‘gentlemanly’ and the fact that breeders traditionally have adopted a low profile within the sport.
We will work on better communication, but we have to accept that much of our activity behind the scenes with the government and European bodies, while vital, is not the stuff of headlines.
This brings me on to a subject that will become a regular topic over the coming months – the levy replacement and the body that will agree and manage the distribution of its funds.
Traditionally, support for breeders’ prizes schemes, such as Plus 10 and MOPS, has been hard fought and the outcome involves a very small percentage of the overall levy budget. In any case, they are mostly merely a realignment of prize-money. As we move forward, we must ensure that a much larger percentage is spent on looking after, encouraging and furthering the breed and its physical wellbeing.
For every mare that doesn’t breed, foal that doesn’t race or horse that doesn’t run because of injury, there is a loss to all participants in the sport. So we must encourage and incentivise breeders and owners to breed and test their horses for soundness and longevity on the racetrack, from sprinters to stayers, the two ends of the spectrum that the TBA has sought to support through special measures.
Once racing has an assured future, we should plan long term and build a system in which breeders and owners are encouraged to invest in that longevity and soundness, rather than make for the quick-fix route we seem to be heading down.
The rewards for producing middle-distance and staying horses, who balance the programme, must be commensurate with the extra costs of getting them there. Most National Hunt stars are geldings – and here a word of congratulations to Trish Wilkins and Bobby McAlpine, the British breeders of Grand National winner Rule The World – with no opportunity to join the breeding band, and we have to think along the same lines to encourage Flat horses to stay in training. The stars that keep running catch the public’s imagination and we have a real opportunity to build a programme that gives them a platform.
The TBA will be at the forefront of these initiatives and with our Horsemen’s Group colleagues will work to ensure that new money coming into racing is used for the health and advancement of the breed and to the benefit of everyone involved in the sport.