No-one said that taking over as Chairman of the TBA from Kirsten Rausing would be easy. Kirsten’s inimitable leadership made her a hard act to follow, but I hope that members in particular and the racing and breeding industry in general will agree that over the ensuing three years we have built on the solid foundations she created.
They have been three years of further evolvement for British racing, with important changes at the head of the BHA and continuing discussions about funding, and three busy years for the TBA, as the decline in foal crops following the recession began to steady encouragingly.
While racecourse events, sales promotions, educational forums and regional stud visits represent the public face of the TBA, much of the work of the board and its executive goes on behind the scenes. That fact quickly became apparent when I began to juggle TBA commitments with my day-job diary.
Without proper preparation, safeguarding breeders’ interests would be impossible, particularly where they risk becoming entangled in the red tape that seems to be in plentiful supply when government and EU officials turn their attention to equine matters.
The TBA took the lead in highlighting anomalies in the BHA’s zero-tolerance policy on anabolic steroids
Retaining Notifiable Disease Status for CEM and EVA, and maintaining CAP eligibility for horse breeding might not be obvious headline-grabbers, but they were achieved in 2014 through being armed with the right information and working with the right departments. Both would have had alarming consequences for breeders had first intentions been realised.
In similar vein, the TBA took the lead in highlighting anomalies in the BHA’s zero-tolerance policy on anabolic steroids. There is still work to be done in this area.
Looking back over the TBA’s achievements since 2012, several have given particular satisfaction. None was more important to explain the current status of the breeding industry than the March 2014 publication of the Economic Impact Study, and none more significant for the future of British racing than the Stayers Report, published this spring.
Both demonstrated that the work of the TBA, while firmly focused on members’ interests, goes beyond the parochial and encompasses more than a single topic. They highlighted underlying progress that I have attempted to engender and we have managed to achieve as an organisation that rightfully sits at British racing administration’s top table.
And now it’s time to welcome Julian Richmond-Watson into the hot seat. He is not unfamiliar with taking up positions of huge responsibility in British racing, having served in a number of prominent positions, including as Senior Steward of the Jockey Club at a time of huge change.
He has worked closely with me as Vice-Chairman, most notably in launching the Stayers Review and its subsequent report, and is ideally placed to pick up the challenges that lie ahead, not least in areas that might not be immediately obvious to all TBA members, never mind those outside the organisation, such as veterinary and regulatory administration, education and training, and race programming.
Much still needs to be done to build on the work the TBA has done through the Economic Impact Study and the Stayers Report, not least in promoting fillies and mares in jump racing, and Julian can be relied upon to remain vigilant that the voice of breeders continues to be heard in the right quarters.
However, since breeders are optimists by nature, I will not be the only one who has noticed some encouraging signs for the future.
As I mentioned earlier, the decline in foal numbers has steadied, and there can be no better boost for the business and pleasure of bringing horses into the world than to look back over the scenes of pure joy that followed the successes of Coneygree in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Golden Horn in the Derby – both homebred, and both foaled down in Britain.
I wish Julian and all breeders, big and small, every success in the coming three years.