Just weeks on from the resumption of racing and the rewards of the Great British Bonus Scheme (GBB) are already being felt across the spectrum.
A total of 11 bonuses were won during June and come the end of the month, there was clearly a rising interest from trainers and owners looking to target races with their eligible stock. They include owner Kevin Nicholson, who is hopeful of securing a second award after landing a £20,000 payout thanks to the Beverley success of his homebred Brazen Belle, and trainer Amy Murphy, who sent out Gerry Ryan’s Emotional Moment to win a full bonus on debut at Kempton Park.
Launched on June 1 and promoted by the TBA, the GBB is an industry-wide scheme with the ability to significantly reward the connections of winning fillies, making it a potentially valuable asset to industry players at a time of uncertainty.
To recap, the GBB awards bonuses of up to £20,000 should a qualified filly win an eligible race. Fillies have to be born in the UK and sired by a British-based stallion to win the full bonus. However, a filly who is British-bred yet sired by a stallion standing outside Britain is still eligible to win 50% of an award.
Open to fillies bred under both codes, it has replaced Plus10 and NH MOPS and is predominantly funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) alongside registration fee income from owners and breeders. The scheme covers all class 2, 3, 4, and 5 maiden, novices and conditions races for fillies, meaning that there will be ‘hundreds of opportunities’ for bonuses to be won; the current season may have been impacted by coronavirus but by 2022 it is hoped that the seasonal payout could be as much as £3 million, or perhaps even more.
Significantly, multiple bonuses can also be won by a single horse.
The GBB was borne out of the findings of the 2018 TBA Economic Impact Study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers that identified the challenges faced by breeders selling fillies at public auction.
“We found that 66% of British breeders were losing money,” says TBA Chairman Julian Richmond-Watson, one of the driving forces behind the scheme. “That is pretty frightening.
“So we founded a breeders’ strategy group and looked at all the options over a period of 18 months. The GBB scheme was the obvious one to pursue.
“When we were talking about it during those early days, we felt it had to be a significant figure – yes, £10,000 is great but £20,000 really does mean something. And one of the great aspects of it is that it gives everyone a chance.
“Now breeders have several options if they have a filly. They can sell her or now they have a real chance of being able to either keep, lease or syndicate her.”
As the accompanying table (on page 32) illustrates, the bonus split rewards a range of winning connections headed by the owner, who receives 65%. The registered breeder also gains 10% as does the registered owner at the time of yearling registration.
“The fact that people can win multiple bonuses gives something for people to aim at,” says Richmond-Watson. “And there could be a real trickle-down effect. Breeders may now look at it and say ‘yes we need a GB suffix’, so more mares will foal in Britain and that in turn will boost employment and help the rural economy.
“Obviously, this scheme also replaces MOPS for the jumps-bred fillies. The jumps industry in this country is in dire straits and I hope that this helps the situation and encourages people to stand jumps stallions in Britain down the line.”
There is no doubt that GBB is living up to expectations as a welcome boost to owners. For example, the early winners include a filly who was bought back as a yearling for £5,000 in Brazen Belle and another, Emotional Moment, who was picked up last October for just 15,000gns.
“The scheme was held up but we’ve been able to launch it ahead of the sales season and in the current Covid situation, which is when we need it most,” says Richmond-Watson. “People in racing are optimists and I think hopefully that this gives them a dream.”
A great initiative that offers the ‘chance to make racing affordable’ – that is the view of owner Kevin Nicholson, who landed a £20,000 bonus following the success of his homebred filly Brazen Belle at Beverley on June 11.
Nicholson bred Brazen Belle out of Pepper Lane and sent her to last year’s Goffs UK September Sale, where she was bought back for just £5,000. Fast forward nine months and with her debut victory for David O’Meara in the bag, the daughter of Brazen Beau has already netted Nicholson close to £24,000 in prize-money.
“Brazen Belle went to join her half-sister, Infinite Grace, for breaking and training with the very astute David O’Meara and his superb team at Willow Farm near York,” says Nicholson. “She was soon into the swing of things and managed to do everything asked of her with ease. It wasn’t long before she was starting to show a hint of ability and plenty of speed.
“Race planning stage commenced – what could possibly go wrong? Enter Covid-19. Plans on hold for three months.
“Beverley’s first meeting back had a maiden auction fillies’ race on the card, which looked ideal for her debut, and so it turned out to be, with her winning at her first attempt. The race was covered by the GBB, which is a great initiative, especially for a small breeder like myself – there is the chance to make racing more affordable and an incentive to race the fillies.”
Nicholson was bitten by the racing bug at an early age, his interest fuelled by annual pilgrimages to York’s Ebor Festival, and after taking shares in ‘one or two small syndicates’, took the plunge in a daughter of Exceed And Excel with building contractor Dave Lumley; ‘the small chestnut filly’ turned out to be Pepper Lane, the dam of Brazen Belle who went on to win six races, including two renewals of the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon, and run Listed- placed.
“At the end of the 2012 season, Dave decided to cash in so ‘Pepper’ was sent to the sales,” says Nicholson. “When she didn’t realise my estimated valuation, I had a rush of blood and bought her back with the intention of breeding to race the progeny for pleasure. I had her covered by Medicean and she was packed off to Richard and Maggie Lingwood’s family-run Norton Grove Stud, where she still resides to this day receiving the best attention from all the staff.”
Pepper Lane’s first foal, Sheoak, never ran while her second, Ever So Sure, died as a young horse, leading Nicholson to remark: “I was beginning to wonder if the advice received about the connection between breeding and insanity was correct.”
However, the mare’s third foal, Infinite Grace, has won twice for O’Meara, and remains in training, while now there is the promise of Brazen Belle to look forward to.
“We will certainly be trying to win another bonus race particularly as prize- money is now at the same level it was ten years ago,” says Nicholson. “And then we might look to possibly have a crack at the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury.”
He adds: “Brazen Belle has a yearling full-brother at Norton Grove Stud, who looks a nice sort, and Pepper Lane is currently in foal to the Aussie phenomenon Zoustar. Fingers crossed for a filly so we can put her in the GBB scheme.”
Brazen Belle added a second Great British Bonus on July 15 when she took out a 6f fillies’ novice stakes at Catterick.
Trainer Amy Murphy and Australian owner Gerry Ryan are now in the enviable position of being in possession of a filly who not only looks promising but has also paid for herself in one run.
The filly in question is Emotional Moment, who made an impressive winning debut at Kempton Park on June 21. In the process, she earned Ryan a £20,000 bonus, having been picked up for only 15,000gns by Murphy as a Tattersalls October Book 3 yearling.
Murphy takes up the story. “We bought her on spec and when her half-brother, Chief Ironside, won a Group 2 in Australia a couple of weeks later, then everyone was trying to buy her,” she says.
“We’re absolutely delighted. She’s basically paid for herself in one run, which is a huge credit to the scheme.
“She was one of those fillies that we thought if she ran well first time out but hadn’t quite managed to win, then we would probably go to France and run her over there. But with the bonus, it makes it well worth-while staying here – you probably get more for actually staying here so that’s a massive benefit to someone like ourselves.
“It’s also great for Gerry Ryan, it’s great to see him have a horse trained in England and he’s really thankful for the scheme as well.”
Pinhooking can be a rollercoaster of a business, a high-risk venture where it isn’t rare to see celebrations and disappointments run hand in hand. As operators on both sides of the market, theirs is a group that owns a real insight into the world of buying and selling stock, and in turn, the valuable role that a sales incentive can play.
One such observer is the Hertfordshire-based Jamie Railton, a strong investor at all the major winter breeding stock sales.
“If a buyer has two options at a sale, one horse that is eligible and one that isn’t, then the one that is eligible will get that extra bid,” says Railton. “If that then means breeders can cover their costs and overheads – which at the moment they can’t – then it is a fantastic initiative.
“The attractive aspect of this scheme is the fact a horse can win multiple bonuses. Add in a Tattersalls October Book 1 bonus and then it’s even more – it becomes a very good amount. You’re talking about horses that could go on and win as much as £60,000.
“So I think as a trader, you have to factor it in when buying. It’s been very well thought out and a very positive thing for the whole industry.”
The difficulties facing small breeders are well known; after all, this scheme was launched in reaction to the harsh findings of the TBA Economic Impact Study of 2018.
ROA Board member Sam Hoskins wears many caps, including as manager of Hot To Trot Racing and Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds. He also breeds on a small scale, and so is well aware of how this incentive might help alleviate the challenges associated with selling fillies at auction.
“As a small breeder myself, I know how difficult it can be if you get a filly,” he says. “Now, fillies have a market.
“I have an Ardad filly going to the sales this autumn and if she doesn’t end up making her value, I would now be encouraged to race her myself. The incentive to do that is there now, and if you get a good one that can defy a penalty, then you can go and win another one – the idea of winning multiple bonuses is very appealing.”
James Gray of Elusive Bloodstock in Lincolnshire also envisages an uptick in breeders racing their own stock. And should that happen, other areas of the industry could be poised to benefit.
“It will help sell fillies but also now there’s an incentive to keep them to race,” he says. “Maybe now it will help some people get back to breeding racehorses – people may now think ‘yes I’ll back my judgement and use that stallion to breed a racehorse as I could win £20,000 to help with the costs’. And then that might boost some of the smaller established stallions.”
Elusive Bloodstock is home to Poule d’Essai des Poulains winner Falco, the sire of Triumph Hurdle hero Peace And Co, as well as the regally-bred stakes winner Sun Central. In 2020, the stud foaled down 13 jumps mares and another 11 for the Flat, meaning that it is well versed in the market intricacies of both spheres.
“MOPS worked really well and we supported that,” says Gray. “But the additional bonus of winning a prize as a breeder is really good. The GBB tightens up a lot of the other schemes and I like the adjustment they made of rewarding different stages, particularly the idea that the breeder still gets a breeders’ prize.
“Hopefully it encourages more people to use British stallions. £20,000 is a big figure, it’s the golden ticket, and it could cover a year’s worth of training fees, especially in the National Hunt world. For a syndicate, it could really change things.
“I’m grateful and impressed by all the work that the TBA has put into it.”
Less than two weeks following the resumption of racing and there was a welcome bonus win for one of the newer owners in racing, Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad al Khalifa, son of the King of Bahrain.
Sheikh Nasser’s colours were carried to victory at Chelmsford City on June 9 by Concessions, a daughter of Muhaarar purchased by Oliver St Lawrence at Book 1 of last year’s Tattersalls October Sale. The Richard Hannon-trained filly subsequently gained valuable black-type when second to fellow GBB bonus winner Time Scale in the Listed Empress Stakes at Newmarket.
St Lawrence, who also acts as Chairman of the Federation of Bloodstock Agents, described the scheme as “a shot in the arm for British breeders” and sees it playing an important role when it comes to marketing fillies at auction.
“Any owner, old or new, is going to be excited to win such a bonus, which can virtually pay the year’s training fees in one go,” says St Lawrence. “It is a shot in the arm for British breeders and should encourage buyers to target eligible fillies at the sales, which in turn should help make British-born filly foals more commercial. Hopefully more mare owners can therefore turn a profit, meaning there is a knock-on effect of British stallions gaining further patronage.
“As an agent, the scheme will definitely encourage me to target buying more eligible fillies at the sales with the added selling tool of the Great British Bonus to promote to owners. As a stud manager myself and as an advisor to a number of breeders, we will definitely have to really consider which country our mares foal down in and look more closely at using British-based stallions.”