Letter: much being done to protect the breed

The TBA and BHA are working hard to protect stamina breeding

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Letter: much being done to protect the breed

Owner-breeder Philip Newton responds to a recent letter from Sue Cameron in which she decried trends in modern breeding

THE recent observations by John Gosden concerning staying-bred horses and Sue Cameron's thoughtful letter require some comment from the industry; otherwise the public might believe that Nero is fiddling while Rome burns when the reality is the opposite applies.

It is necessary to make clear at the outset that, although I am director of the TBA and also a member of the BHA Racing Committee, my remarks are made in a personal capacity, although some of the initiatives I mention I am closely involved with.

First it is appropriate to remind that market forces will drive the industry – free enterprise is encouraged in this country and with that comes a choice. It may be regrettable that stallions cover such substantial books of mares these days, but that is the here and now and the circumstances under which the authorities must work.

We almost all agree that the current housing shortage would perhaps not have existed in quite the same terms had the large stocks of council houses not been sold off and, as the commercial approach to stallion ownership is here to stay, so is the lack of affordable housing for certain parts of the population.

That doesn't mean that there are no other tools to influence and assist the breed and both the TBA and BHA are determined to use every opportunity possible to achieve this. Here are two examples of a number of current projects.

In April 2014 the TBA published a detailed study in to British stayers and staying races which highlighted the issues this sector of the thoroughbred racehorse faced.

This study was then discussed with the BHA and action taken through an increasing focus within the Race Programme encouraging breeding of this type of animal. Restricted races have and are appearing in the programme for two-year-olds by sires that stayed 1m2f-plus and new opportunities for staying older horses have appeared, along with new Listed races.

The BHA has recently completed an informative survey in to staying-bred horses and this will undoubtedly result in more change and initiative to encourage this type of horse.

Additionally and importantly, it is recognised that there is no quick fix; the demise of the staying-bred animal has taken place over the last 20-30 years and an investment over five to ten years will be needed for any real results to show in the increase of this part of the population. But the journey has already begun.

The TBA lobbied the BHA for a review of the Fillies and Mares Programme, a request that the BHA gladly acceded to and an excellent study was the outcome.

This study showed that the Fillies and Mares programme certainly wasn't broken – over the last ten years there has been a greater proportional increase in the number of fillies rated 85 or highter versus colts (58 per cent versus 39 per cent).

There has been a 15 per cent increase in Pattern races for fillies = fillies races represent 11.1 per cent of the entire racing programme and Fillies rated over 75 earn on average more money than colts. Additionally there is £2.5m of bonuses available for fillies in the Plus Ten scheme.

Clearly the investment is being made and will continue to be: the BEBF Fillies and Mares Series of races, with finals day at Newmarket this weekend, was a TBA initiative that the BHA and the BEBF embraced; there are excellent levels of prize-money throughout the series and even bigger pots for the Final winners, plus the chance of a £25,000 TBA bonus towards a stallion nomination. Two new Listed races have appeared in the calendar this year for fillies and the work will not stop here.

The TBA and BHA have a joint marketing initiative #thisfillycan, the purpose of which is to raise awareness and dispel myths as to the real value the fillies have both as a racing product and then as a broodmare prospect. Neither of the two bodies is suggesting more horses are bred, simply that we improve and make the most of the existing population.

The data is available now to determine real outcomes, no more fingers-in-the-air guesswork, but decisions that can shape the industry for the future based upon fact, this can and will make a real difference to the future.

Much good work to enhance and protect the breed is underway and has been so for a while, while some may consider not enough is being done, I can assure that everything that is possible, taking in to account funding and market circumstances is, and I am encouraged by the excellent work that goes on behind the scenes unheralded.

The future of the thoroughbred is taken very seriously and will be protected at all cost.

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