Rachel Hood, my ROA counterpart, will be better acquainted with the issues currently faced by the Horsemen’s Group (HG), sitting as she does on both the HG and BHA Chairman’s Committee. My view is to give the TBA’s full support to the HG, to negotiate with racecourses for improvements in prize-money and conditions.

At the moment it seems to be suffering from a mid-term crisis and needs to get its house in order to be effective. There are not insurmountable issues. A number of funding options exist and there must be a degree of flexibility for members to interpret how best these are arrived at to secure HG in the future.

Any misconception that this represents a weakness in the HG must be addressed. We have recruited an excellent successor to the current Chairman in Philip Freedman and the HG board possesses some great brains to secure much needed confidence from its stakeholders in the British racing industry.

The government reshuffle has resulted in key changes at the helm of DEFRA, which requires our attention

The government’s ministerial reshuffle has resulted in some key changes at the helm in DEFRA, which also requires our attention. The industry has enjoyed an excellent relationship with the Farming Minister and East Cambridgeshire MP Jim Paice. His successor, David Heath, represents Somerton and Frome, and the new Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, has close links with racing from his North Shropshire constituency.

So whilst we now have to revisit a lobbying strategy, there is a strong likelihood that, coming from rural backgrounds, TBA members will have contacts with both incoming ministers which support our efforts. Please get in touch if you can help with a local stud visit or personal introduction.

Topping the TBA’s lobbying agenda will be our concerns that DEFRA proposes to downgrade the notifiable status of Contagious Equine Metritis. This has been poorly handled, with no clear consultation, leading to the impression that the plan was always for deregulation to slip past us. Our veterinary advisors have shown great diligence in raising the profile of this matter. This situation has sadly demonstrated that we cannot rely upon support from the DEFRA Animal Health and Welfare Board and the wider non-thoroughbred community. More work must be done with both groups to improve understanding.

Increased emphasis on communication at all levels was also a message emanating from the TBA Board’s recent strategy day. The board members were fulsome in their support for the TBA’s recent achievements but feel a need to ensure that members are more familiar with these and TBA benefits. However, with over 86% of members aged 51 or over and a larger than expected number of small breeders, there is clearly a challenge to communicate effectively with these members.

Communicating through the TBA website is far from the answer, with the majority of members still failing to supply an email address. I hope those of you reading this will seize the opportunity to speak to me, Louise or any board member during the forthcoming sales season, with your thoughts on how we can improve our communication with you.

The DBS Premier Yearling Sales posted an encouraging clearance rate and the market for quality remains strong. DBS are to be congratulated on attracting some new high-profile purchasers to this sale.

Farther down the order, the market is patchy and a vendor’s profitability usually relies on one or two outstanding lots covering the remainder. Fillies with less pedigree have always been challenging and I suspect this year will be much the same. For this reason I am keen that the TBA returns to sponsoring a fillies’ race for all sales graduates, and continues our commitment to BOBIS to enrich the value of British-breds. These measures, fully funded and supported, will improve the attractiveness of British-bred and -consigned horses, but an increase in prize-money remains the priority.