This year’s Annual General Meeting stimulated some interesting debate and the questions posed by our members clearly demonstrated that they have engaged with the issues that will largely determine the long-term strategy adopted by British breeding in the years to come.
It was my intention to face some hard facts in my AGM address and I remain convinced that only when the economic situation shows signs of substantial improvement can we be confident that an appetite for racehorse ownership in Europe will expand.
Ironically the success of Tattersalls’ July Sales underlined the strength of the international market for horses in training with a decent rating. British form is recognised the world over and it is thanks to its clarity and reliability that these horses are capable of recouping their yearling sales price.
While I doubt that the resale value is a significant factor for yearling buyers, if there is a buoyant market for horses in training it will effectively generate the funds needed for owners’ reinvestment in the yearling market, which is a positive signal for the producers. The loss of these good horses to the British racing industry and fixture list is perhaps another aspect of underfunding which BHA should examine, particularly if their answer to the shortage of runners is to encourage one more run per starter.
I look forward to Paul Greeves’ presentation at the TBA Annual Seminar in which he promises to provide more statistical information to help the industry respond to the changing dynamics and we can enjoy further debate on whether the horse population should meet the fixture list or the fixture list should be more responsive to the horse population. Again the outcome of our TBA Economic Impact Study will also be hugely valuable in determining the future of the industry.
A not entirely separate initiative to address field sizes has been proposed by the BHA with a view to converting 80% of all maiden races on the Flat to novice events. While seeking to even out field size concerns and creating subsequent opportunities for those horses who win on their debut, the downside of this proposal for the breeding industry is that it will have the effect of creating fewer maiden opportunities and therefore producing many fewer maiden winners. The TBA will lobby on behalf of breeders to maintain winning opportunities.
The AGM also debated the industry’s incentive schemes with some members keen to see a reduction in their number. While I can sympathise with the view that additional production costs are unwelcome, breeders’ registration fees for both schemes are now £150 minimum each. For that outlay breeders have access via BOBIS to £1.1 million in funding from the Levy Board (rising in 2013) and a scheme which has a wider scope, offers returns to owners, and uniquely breeders, trainers and stable staff. The RPYBS has a much sharper commercial focus, and has been successful in adding value to yearlings offered at sales in Britain and Ireland.
There was a view that the EBF and BOBIS could possibly come together, but it is clear that while BOBIS continues to enjoy significant funding from the Levy Board, which must be targeted at support for British-bred horses, it would require a restructure and new funding model if the BHA felt there was value to extending this beyond a domestic self-help initiative.
We should reflect positively on what the schemes have achieved in terms of raising awareness of our industry and, importantly, the collaboration between the organisers to ensure that the bonus funds are used to stimulate racecourse executive contributions and improvements in the race programme – all of which must be welcomed.