A year ago, I supported the call for Tattersalls’ October Book 1 Yearling Sales to be delayed by a day, to provide for more time to view yearlings coming shortly after the Arc weekend. This year they have answered our calls and added a welcome delineation between Books 2 and 3. Ultimately, it was always going to be a case of numbers dictating the dates and further declines in the 2010 British and Irish foal crops have led to this decision.
I expect similar reductions will affect the 2011 yearling sales season, not only in the UK and Ireland but worldwide, with USA foal production having fallen by around 19% since 2007. As custodians of the horse, the TBA’s priority is to protect the British thoroughbred and its breeders. Now, more than ever, we will need to be vigilant in maintaining an appropriate environment, which is vital to encourage the production from good mares and to oversee maintenance of a competitive and quality race programme to stimulate this production.
There was outcry among breeders recently at the loss of the Lansdown Fillies’ Stakes. An early Listed opportunity, enjoying EBF sponsorship, this was returned to the BHA racing department by Bath racecourse with no other course prepared to take it on. Whitsbury Manor Stud’s Chris Harper has offered to sponsor the race for three years to safeguard its future (see news, page 10). I sincerely hope we do not see ‘dumbing down’ becoming a regular feature of Northern Racing’s business model.
That approach, happily, does not apply to all racecourses. We will be looking to develop our relationship with supportive racecourses that recognise the value of producing quality cards, both in terms of their attractiveness to racegoers, the media and betting industry, and for the longer-term health of the sport.
Looking back to last April, I also predicted that horsemen and racecourses would need to accept that they should work together to find a modern solution to the industry’s structure. This approach has been developed by the BHA and, while positive press reports suggest that this is moving forward, the devil is certainly hiding in the detail of this particular negotiation. It is imperative that the TBA is fully involved in this debate, with the board members adamant that they will not tolerate any loss of influence under the new structure.
Moving away from industry politics, I would like to recognise the value of the Godolphin Annual Stud and Stable Staff Awards and congratulate all the nominees, in particular the Stud Staff Award winners – Douglas Ventress (Plantation Stud), Sandra Morton (Folly Farm Stud) and overall winner Graham Paxton (Darley).
At this time of year, when foaling and covering duties add to the workload, our staff really demonstrate their commitment and professional skills. Studs across the country may be dealing with reduced numbers, but the additional tasks associated with caring for young foals, coping with wet weather conditions, as well as ‘out of hours’ coverings, are all part of the job. The TBA’s own Stud Staff Awards, run bi-monthly, recognise and celebrate the value of competent and professional staff. From these candidates, an annual winner receives the New England Stud-sponsored award. The 2010 winner will be announced at the Annual Awards Dinner on June 27.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the retiring TBA board members. By the end of 2011 the board will lose some of its longest-standing members: Lady Emma Balding, Nigel Elwes, Rhydian Morgan-Jones, Hugo Lascelles and Martin Mitchell. They will prove to be extremely difficult to replace.
We are now seeking candidates who are active British breeders able to devote sufficient time to the association, with professional skills to support the executive team in areas such as finance and law. We will also need to identify a future Chairman and Vice-Chairman. The nomination stage closes on April 1.