This article is the first of my final year in a five-year term of office as TBA Chairman. Racing politics have proved a steep learning curve and, whilst the economic pressures on the racing and breeding industry have ensured that there have not been many days without the need to respond to a stream of emails addressing a variety of issues to protect breeders’ interests, it has been an enlightening and rewarding journey.

I am, therefore, delighted that Richard Lancaster, Stud Director at Shadwell Stud, has been appointed as my successor and will take over the chairmanship on August 2, 2012. He brings with him a wealth of industry knowledge, the respect of his peers and the ability to ensure that the TBA maintains a prominent position in securing the future for our industry.

Julian Richmond-Watson, who was co-opted to the TBA board in April and represents the TBA on the BHA Racing Committee and the Horsemen’s Group Race Planning Sub-Committee, has been appointed Vice-Chairman of the TBA. He has already demonstrated that he possesses the key skills required to lobby for a race programme that provides the right testing ground for our bloodstock. He will also be a strong advocate of the need to preserve quality racing, having been instrumental in securing a commitment from the Levy Board to provide additional prize-money in 2012, to improve the race programme on the Flat and underpinning higher quality racing, long seen as a priority for the TBA.

I wish also to thank long standing co-opted board member Martin Mitchell, who retired at the end of 2011. He really will be much missed, having brought all his people skills to rescue many a diplomatic incident, whilst also safely guiding the board through the potential minefield of sales issues. It is, therefore, most appropriate and indeed flattering, that Edmond Mahony, Tattersalls’ Chairman, will join the board to continue to provide specialist skills and knowledge, enabling the TBA to maintain the strong relationship we enjoy with the sales houses, with both DBS and Brightwells also represented on the TBA NH Sub-Committee.

I cannot foresee a European racing industry without sponsorship from breeders

The 2011 sales season ended on an uplifting note, with positive signals that the market was gaining renewed confidence. The subsequent increased investment in quality mares and broodmare prospects was evident at Tattersalls. Fortunately, not all high quality lots headed off across the globe and British-based vendors and purchasers were evident at the top end of the market.

However, a note of caution still exists with the need to focus on excellence. I maintain that this approach should not be just a purely commercial consideration but also a way of life for our industry in the future. Breeders across the world should never again abandon these rules; we all owe it to the thoroughbred to keep production in careful check and ensure there are no compromises in welfare as a result of overproduction.

The upturn in market conditions has encouraged a review of the incentives which the breeding industry has crafted over recent years to stimulate demand. The Racing Post Yearling Bonus Scheme was one concept which found a great deal of support from the racing industry and breeders should be proud of the fact that they were prepared to fund this initiative to keep our share of the leisure pound or euro.

With the darker days hopefully behind us, the organisers are wisely reviewing this scheme. I applaud their efforts and am confident that they will find the right way forward. Similarly, the trustees of the European Breeders’ Fund are looking at their structure. I cannot foresee a European racing industry without sponsorship from breeders, but I believe we should welcome the opportunities these reviews present to re-establish the principles behind this support.

As we welcome in the new year, now is the time in more ways than one to re-position the importance of the breeding industry in the minds of racing’s rulers. That much my five years in office have taught me!