While the racing industry remained in political and financial turmoil, 2011 was a year of surprises and successes for British breeders, but still the economic background threatens livelihoods.

Frankel deserves all the plaudits. Horses are the sport’s most valuable ambassadors and it is therefore entirely appropriate that Khalid Abdullah’s colt should crown his season with a win in the QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, at the inaugural British Champions’ Day at Ascot in front of an international crowd.

British breeding’s strong global reputation was attributed to the recent outstanding yearling sales results at Tattersalls. Our worldwide reputation must be protected and it is vital that the TBA plays its part, particularly as the domestic industry continues to suffer from insufficient funding.

In the final column of the year, I wish to highlight some of the TBA’s achievements, illustrating how we make a difference:

  • The two new sub-committees appointed in 2010 have already made their mark. Under Peter Mendham’s chairmanship, the Bloodstock Taxation Group updated the Bloodstock Taxation Guide. This committee, supported by leading breeders, also successfully countered HMRC’s proposal to introduce import duty on thoroughbred young stock primarily from the USA, thus saving in excess of £5 million a year in unwarranted duty. I believe this sent a strong message to HMRC and I suspect the group will continue to be kept busy, heading off threats to our trading status and protecting our interests.
  • The Next Generation Committee recently appointed Sam Waley-Cohen as its President and was instrumental in the launch of 18-35 membership during 2011. The profile of the NGC continues to grow and it will provide a vital function in the years to come, in supplying the TBA with a capable and enthusiastic base of active members.
  • Now on a stronger financial footing, the board was able to revert to the TBA’s policy of supporting breeders’ core activities, such as increased funding for veterinary research projects, British Bloodstock Marketing and race sponsorship. In 2011, £200,000 was allocated to these initiatives.
  • Involvement in politics remains a priority, and one in which the TBA has become more closely aligned in order to highlight issues which are important to breeders. The Horsemen’s Group has formed a new Race Planning sub-committee and through Julian Richmond-Watson’s membership, the need to increase prize-money allocation to support quality racing will not be overlooked.
  • The Levy Board’s recent commitment to significant financial support for quality racing is very good news. The devil, I suspect, will be in the detail and this is still to be debated by the board, with the Horsemen’s Group keen to see a realistic enhancement for its members.
  • The TBA continues to enjoy support from the Levy Board and, endorsed by the Horsemen’s Group members, the HBLB Breeders’ Prizes Scheme was maintained. The National Hunt Committee has enjoyed considerable successes, highlighted by the launch of the TBA NH Elite Mares Scheme.
  • The Education and Employment Committee, also supported by the Levy Board, continued to promote careers in the industry and raise the profile of the TBA. During 2011 Education and Employment manager Caroline Turnbull spread the message to over 700 equine students, Pony Club members, breeders and racing industry professionals. The work of this committee was also boosted by the launch of the new TBA website in June 2011, which included free access to a wealth of professional employment support for all our members.

Looking forward to 2012, one of my priorities will be to increase our efforts to retain and grow the membership. Whilst the TBA cannot halt declining broodmare numbers, we need to strengthen our message that the service, support and benefits we provide means TBA membership is a necessity for professional and hobby breeders alike.