Every trade association, inside or outside racing, needs strong leadership, and I am delighted that Claire Sheppard, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the industry, is joining the TBA as our new Chief Executive Officer. The board, executive and I all look forward to working with her.
Among the by-products of the interviewing process from which Claire emerged as the outstanding candidate was the realisation of how diverse and far-reaching the TBA’s remit has become in recent years. The number and range of topics that staff at Stanstead House deal with continues to grow, demonstrating how important it is for us to have in place a sound structure and a well-equipped team able to serve the interests of all members, whether they have small or large operations, private or commercial.
Veterinary matters, race programming and training are areas that have taken on much greater importance as the TBA has approached this year’s centenary celebrations. Our veterinary research and advice is crucial, and the Codes of Practice, published annually by the Levy Board, is rightly regarded as the most vital practical guide in the event of a disease outbreak.
The availability of vaccines and medicine is becoming an ever greater issue and our veterinary committee – one of five sub-committees that support the TBA board – is constantly reviewing the status of products. In overall terms, it is increasingly important that we safeguard standards for disease surveillance and reporting within Defra.
Working with other thoroughbred breeding nations over the details of Brexit, when and where they are finalised, is bound to be time-consuming and complicated. The ability to move breeding and sales horses between countries without constraint is vital for the industry in Britain, and the TBA will need to be at the forefront of these negotiations to ensure that the present ease of movement continues.
Our engagement as members of the European Federation of TBAs and the International Thoroughbred Breeders’ Federation gives us the appropriate contacts and opportunities to make this work.
Britain’s racing programme – about which our incoming Chief Executive has intimate knowledge, following her five years in a similar role at Plumpton racecourse and three years as racing director at the RCA – continues to improve. Yet initiatives such as Plus 10 and MOPS would not have come about without the TBA’s hard work in persuading others to give their backing.
Funding of education and training becomes more difficult as the government makes further demands on employers
The TBA’s duty to support the diversity and excellence of the thoroughbred resulted in our undertaking a study into British stayers and staying races. We are delighted that others have taken up the cause, the most recent example being the European Pattern Committee, whose decision to upgrade the Goodwood Cup to Group 1 status, while enhancing other Group and Listed staying races, is a great testament to an initiative started by the TBA.
Funding of education and training becomes more difficult as the government makes further demands on the industry and employers. The TBA must continue to help by providing courses for members and supporting the recruitment and training of stud staff.
Last year’s strategic review revealed a view among a significant number of members that the association is probably not as good as it should be in explaining to supporters and funders the wide range of activities undertaken on their behalf. With that in mind the board and executive will look at ways to engage with members to understand any issues they have with our work.
New money is about to flow into the sport and the TBA will work tirelessly to make sure that the voice of breeders and the industry is heard, so that support where it has a direct benefit to breeders and the racing industry is forthcoming and ensures a bright future for the thoroughbred and all it stands for.
There is plenty of work to do, but with the continued support of all our breeders I am sure Claire and her team will do their best to deliver on all fronts.