April is very much a month when the racing year turns a corner and starts to focus on the Flat. However, foaling and covering duties currently remain the priority for breeders. I was delighted to attend the recent Godolphin Annual Stud and Stable Staff Awards and would like to congratulate all the nominees, but in particular the Stud Staff Award winners – Frances Eilbeck (Minster Stud), Gordon Lang (Fittocks Stud) and overall winner Graham Nicklin (Glebe Stud). There is no more appropriate time of the year for stud staff to be applauded for their commitment and professional skills.

The TBA’s own Stud Staff Awards, run bi-monthly, recognises and celebrates the value of competent and professional staff. From these deserving candidates an annual winner is selected to receive the New England Stud-sponsored Award and £1,000. Our judges, have recently selected the 2011 winner and this will be announced at the TBA Annual Awards Dinner.

Nomination papers for the TBA Board elections have been circulated and the next six weeks will see voting for the two vacancies, caused by the end of my own term of office and that of fellow board member Julian Wilson, whose wide knowledge of the day to day challenges faced by stud farmers has proved to be of enormous practical help to the TBA. Amongst our co-opted members we are fortunate to enjoy some key professional skills. However, we need to recruit two individuals who are closely in touch with both the racing and breeding industry and who are willing to support the Association and provide their time and knowledge to safeguard our future.

There are many challenges ahead. The work of the government and the EU, particularly with regard to rural policies, requires continued vigilance and effort in support of recruiting and retaining our members which is always challenging. Veterinary concerns will always be uppermost in our minds, and emerging diseases which may have the potential to threaten our stock, not least the potential concerns highlighted by the Schmallenberg virus and the seeming breakdown of the African Horse Sickness vaccine involved in a deadly outbreak in South Africa’s neighbour, Swaziland, need to be carefully monitored.

The outcome of the legal case brought in Australia to challenge the registration requirement that a thoroughbred horse has to be the produce of a natural service and not conceived by any form of artificial breeding will be announced in the coming months; these issues serve to illustrate the calibre of the challenges that your Association could be facing down the track. From the two new Board members could come a future TBA Chairman and, in spite of the support of an excellent team, this frontline job is not for the faint-hearted.

It is inconceivable that it is now two years since I first predicted that horsemen and racecourses would need to accept that they should work together to find a solution to the industry’s structure. It remains imperative that the TBA is fully involved in this debate and continues to influence decision-making under the new structure.

The breeding industry is people and horses. In the structure of racing administration, the TBA represents one of the groups which is closest to the horse. Throughout my term as Chairman I have endeavoured to ensure that the TBA embraces its responsibility to the thoroughbred and those that tend him, first and foremost.

The Next Generation Committee has brought this home to me that the enthusiasm of young people, their ambition and desire for knowledge will ensure that this sport will endure. The attraction of the horse has not waned. I believe it never will – it is just up to us to ensure we pass on a healthy industry to the next generation.

Can I urge you, therefore, to support the Association, identify the good candidates we have within our membership, encourage them to do their bit, and ensure that we have a robust and effective Association prepared to face up to these issues.