Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Chairman Julian Richmond-Watson outlined key strategic priorities for the year ahead in his address at its Annual General Meeting on Sunday, November 22. The event was held online for the first time in the association’s 103-year history.
Richmond-Watson paid tribute to the work achieved by the TBA team during a challenging year, notably the implementation of protocols that allowed the breeding season to continue despite restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Lockdown started with a very real threat to the breeding industry with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons advising their members to carry out only essential work on studs,” said Richmond-Watson. “So we had to work urgently with the government, DEFRA and the Chief Medical Officer as well as our own equine vets to come up with a protocol to allow the covering season to continue and I’m delighted that through our excellent contacts with DEFRA, this was achieved – a real example of what the TBA can achieve through its contacts.”
His view was echoed by outgoing board member Nicholas Jones, who said: “The pandemic has obviously affected the way we have all had to change our working practices. It came in the middle of the breeding season and therefore protocols had to be agreed with other third parties. The TBA had to ensure that our members knew what the protocols were and that they were able use them efficiently, and I think that did happen to allow the breeding season to continue.”
GBB a welcome boost
One welcome highlight of the past six months has been the launch of the Great British Bonus (GBB) scheme, which awards up to £20,000 in bonuses to the connections of British-bred fillies. Launched in tandem with the resumption of racing in June, it has paid out over £1 million in prizes so far.
“Our GBB scheme was approved and supported by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and was due to launch in March,” commented Richmond-Watson.
“But with no racing taking place, the launch was postponed until June. The scheme has been welcomed universally and has provided a much-needed boost to British breeders. Seeing small owners and breeders winning such meaningful prizes has been one of the uplifting highlights of a difficult racing year.
“Putting the scheme together has taken an enormous amount of work and perseverance, and as well as thanking the GBB management team, I’d also like to thank the horsemen and Levy Board for their support. The Horsemen’s Group and the TBA have been fully engaged and played an integral part in ensuring that racing came back behind closed doors, and that the importance of prize-money has been kept centre stage in all discussions.”
Richmond-Watson added: “Looking ahead, we must hope that we get crowds back on the racecourse in the New Year. The levy reserves that are currently supporting prize-money and racecourses cannot continue at the same level for much longer. Brexit needs resolving and we continue to model all the various scenarios, some of which could have serious consequences for the breeding season. Make no mistake, this is not going to be easy.
“British breeders need support. GBB is a great start. But if racecourses wish to run the size of programme as they do now, then they will need us to maintain and produce more foals on the ground, and that will only happen if breeders feel confident for the future.”
E2SE of vital importance
Board member Sam Bullard also provided an update on the TBA’s education strategy, which includes the increasingly popular Entry To Stud Employment (E2SE) programme and the development of a digital hub.
“Thanks to the efforts of the National Stud, the E2SE programme is hugely important,” he said. “It is geared towards career changes for people and is a tremendous opportunity. In the last two years, about 30 people have passed through this course to the industry, which has got to be a good thing.
“At this time, having opportunities for people to come into the breeding industry is absolutely crucial. We need to source people from the wider world – we need to be a pathway for recruitment for the racing and breeding industry.”
He added: “The TBA hub, geared towards improving the educational opportunities for people, is incredibly exciting. I think that breeders in Britain and further afield will pick up on the learning opportunities that the hub has to offer.”
A special resolution to adopt a change to the Articles of Association, increasing the term of the incumbent Chairman from six to eight years, was approved by a member vote in the meeting.
Chairman Julian Richmond-Watson will remain in post for a further two years, during which challenges for the association will include Brexit, Covid-19, prize-money issues and Levy reform.
New subscription structure and fees
A new membership category was also approved. The associate subscription, offering primarily digital services, will include discounted or free access to TBA courses and events, starting on January 1, 2021 at £60 per year.
TBA Chief Executive Claire Sheppard said: “The Associate tier will provide access to the new TBA e-learning platform, which goes live in the first quarter of 2021, and offer both free and discounted learning materials for those subscribers.
“We hope that a more affordable and streamlined subscription offering will enable enthusiasts, students and industry professionals to join the TBA community, experience the benefits of membership and increase their breeding industry knowledge.”
Full membership under the annual recurring subscription was raised to £150 per year.
Two new Trustees elected
In the election for two seats on the Board of Trustees, Laundry Cottage Stud owner Colin Bryce and Kate Sigsworth, of West Moor Stud, were successful.