Sir Henry Cecil’s great skill was illustrated through his link with owner/breeders
In drafting this month’s column my first thoughts were to recognise Sir Henry Cecil’s contribution to the British breeding industry. Whilst it is impossible to do this justice in the space permitted, I would like to draw on the success he enjoyed with a number of great owner/breeders at a time when the industry was dominated by so many famous names. More recently, the structure of British breeding has undergone considerable change, but those successes will remain testament to his great skills. The last chapter of his career saw him manage the training career of probably the finest racehorse of our generation, Frankel – evidence of his enduring talent and empathy with the thoroughbred. He will be greatly missed.
Talent’s emphatic Oaks win was a great achievement for breeders Ashbrittle Stud and Mark Dixon. From a family that is rooted in the great owner/breeders of yesteryear, it is heart-warming to see Dick Hollingsworth’s investment so successfully rekindled. Such outcomes are the stuff of dreams that serve to encourage us all.
The Gold Cup win of our Patron, Her Majesty the Queen, drew the greatest cheers at Royal Ascot, a meeting which surely deserves its place at the top of the international racing calendar.
This month marks the first anniversary of my chairmanship. I introduced a TBA Board Strategy Day to give the TBA Board and its Executive a path to follow during my term, and whilst this remains work in progress, a number of key areas have been progressed:
- Since its announcement at last year’s AGM, the TBA-inspired BOBIS, which currently provides enhanced breeders’ prizes for members, has made a positive start with over 40% of eligible two-year-old races won by BOBIS horses.
- The board members were keen to see the TBA improve its position within the industry to ensure that the industry and TBA members are aware of the positive work that is being done on their behalf. This has been addressed with the recent announcement that the TBA is seeking to recruit a Communication and Marketing Director to work with GBR and, importantly, to assist our Chief Executive.
- National Hunt (NH) representation and engagement has been increased via Robert Waley-Cohen’s attendance at board meetings and I would like to see Robert elected to the board when the opportunity arises. I have canvassed the views of a number of NH members and they report that NH activity has been at an all-time high recently, and if we can secure a properly-funded NH BOBIS then, along with the support we are giving to NH mares, I think we have met our targets in this area.
- Membership numbers continue to frustrate us, but we are now working with Weatherbys to identify individual breeder numbers. While the overall number is, alarmingly, lower than previously considered, it does offer a reason for the decline in TBA membership. Simply, there are fewer active breeders to recruit, but it puts more emphasis on the need to attract new people to our industry – whether from the 18–35 age group or the empty-nesters – a target group that deserves our attention, too.
It would be unreasonable to judge the board’s success at this stage, but we will be reviewing this activity in early 2014, when the outcome of our recently commissioned ‘Economic Impact Study of the Breeding Industry’ will be available. This will help to inform us of the direction the TBA needs to take, to ensure we continue to support our members and the wider racing industry and provide valuable data to support the political lobbying work which becomes increasingly important.
Meanwhile, the team at Stanstead House will continue to undertake the excellent grassroots work that we know is highly valued by our members – our hugely successful regional days, seminars, stallion parades, information service, help, support and advice, both on a practical and professional level. With the proposal that subscription rates remain unchanged at the forthcoming AGM, I am convinced the TBA offers fantastic value for all.