There’s a column in my favourite non-racing publication The Week called ‘Boring But Important’ in which the key points are outlined for subjects which might otherwise makes one’s eyes glaze over.
While I hasten to stress that the work of the TBA, while important, is in no way boring, this column was brought to mind when reading certain comments in this month’s leader written by TBA Chairman Julian Richmond-Watson (see page 9). Julian highlights the fact that a recent strategy review raised the question of whether the TBA as a body is communicating its aims and achievements effectively enough and concedes that, “our activity behind the scenes with the government and European bodies, while vital, is not the stuff of headlines”.
The very fact that the TBA is set to celebrate its centenary next year is testament to its enduring importance
The very fact that the TBA is set to celebrate its centenary next year is testament to its enduring importance. Its core ambition of protecting the thoroughbred breed – which was essentially the reason for its formation during the First World War – remains the same.
Protection comes in a manner of forms. Though the thoroughbred is hardly in danger of dying out, as it once was, the TBA’s modern-day concerns are centred more on preserving the versatility within the breed. There are very real fears that we could end up with a gene pool woefully short on stamina, as more and more sprint-bred stallions are retired to stud, often without racing past their two-year-old season. That’s not to say that some of these colts won’t go on to be good sires – and the success and popularity of Dark Angel provides the perfect example of this – but as both a racing fan and small breeder, I love to see a horse prove his mental and physical toughness over a number of seasons.
The TBA’s Stayers’ Report, which was launched last year, is the starting point for the provision of enhanced opportunities and rewards for horses bred for middle distances or beyond, which will hopefully start to encourage more breeders to use stallions capable of producing such runners.
Other behind-the-scenes work by the TBA which also probably isn’t fully credited is its liaison with other racing bodies. The factionalisation of British racing has often been “the stuff of headlines” for all the wrong reasons. Far less interesting for those with a tabloid agenda are the examples of different groups working together for the greater good of our sport.
An excellent recent example of this can be seen in the creation of the EBF Breeders’ Fillies’ Series, which is outlined in more detail on pages 54-59. The series is the result of a collaboration between the EBF, TBA and BHA, and aims to provide a welcome fillip to those owners and/or breeders racing fillies which fall just below Listed class. An added bonus for owner/breeders who are also TBA members is the chance to win a nomination voucher of up to £25,000 from the four finals over different distances to be run on Sun Chariot Stakes day at Newmarket in October.
The work of the EBF, which decided to lend significant financial backing to the series thanks to the TBA’s report on the fillies’ racing programme, is something which could easily be taken for granted, so accustomed are we to seeing its name attached to races all over the country. Our in-depth look at the role played by the British wing of the EBF will hopefully serve as a reminder of its vital role within the wider racing world, and it’s worth bearing in mind when we grumble about stallion fees that it is the owners of the most popular and expensive stallions that make the biggest contribution to this fund – all of which is ploughed back into prize-money.
Australia to register breeders
There was a heated response from Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBAus) last month to the introduction of a requirement by Racing Australia for breeders to be governed by the Rules of Racing. Henceforth, anyone registering a foal in the Australian Stud Book (ASB) will be required to sign a form acknowledging this change.
While Racing Australia announced in its press release that its intention is to improve its ability to track the whereabouts of thoroughbreds throughout their lives, the TBAus hailed the move as a “power-grab” by Racing Australia. The breeders instead favour the creation of the role of an ASB Steward who would investigate breaches of ASB rules, with potential disqualifications of up to ten years for breeders found guilty of offences relating to animal cruelty.
We’ll keep you updated on this story as it unfolds in the coming months.