Philip Freedman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association in Great Britain, has issued a warning about the detrimental impact of recent cutbacks by the British Horseracing Board. A judgment by the European Court of Justice in November led to the BHB suspending payments to its Owners' Premium Scheme, as well as drastically cutting back expenditures on marketing Speaking Tuesday at the TBA's Annual General Meeting in London, England, Freedman warned: "Although breeders' primary long-term consideration must be to ensure that the industry has sufficient income to provide the necessary level of prize money to sustain owners' investment in racing, without which the consequences for the breeding industry would be dire, the impact of the BHB's short-term expenditure cuts, necessary as they may be, will be felt not only immediately but will also have consequences long into the future. "The suspension of the Owners' Premium Scheme in 2005 threatens to undermine all that has been achieved in encouraging owners, trainers and agents to support British-bred produce at the sales, and the real impact which has been made in getting British breeders to support stallions standing in this country. "And much had been achieved, as evidenced by the number of British mares going to Ireland, which in 2004 has fallen to 987, a 15% reduction on the 2003 level, which is estimated to have led to £1.5 million being spent on nominations in Britain rather than Ireland. "Without its rapid reinstatement for the 2005 season, even in a partial form and at a reduced cost, breeders and buyers alike will inevitably lose confidence in the Scheme and assume it will be vulnerable whenever the BHB's income comes under threat. If neither believe in its longevity it cannot achieve its objective of influencing long-term investment decisions, and its impact will be negligible. Accordingly we most support and encourage the ROA's endeavors that enough prize money is channeled through the Scheme to ensure it continues." Freedman also warned that the breeding industry could suffer as a result of the BHB's marketing cutbacks. He added: "The Modernization of British Racing proposed that the BHB's governance budget should have a first call on the industry's income, and that principle needs to be re-established, not only to save the Owners' Premium Scheme but also to preserve expenditure on other areas of vital importance to the industry, such as marketing, the BHB development fund etc.
"While the cuts in the marketing budget may impact more on racecourses than breeders, nevertheless a significant part of this expenditure is focused on attracting new owners, and marketing British breeding throughout the world. "Evidence from other industries suggests that those companies who respond to an economic downturn by cutting their marketing expenditure the most aggressively are the slowest to benefit when demand recovers. While a debate on the nature and extent of racing‚'s marketing, and who should be responsible for it, may well be justified, its impact, will, as with Owners' Premiums, be muted if it is turned on and off as funds permit." Freedman also spoke about funding for the Equine Fertility Unit and revealed that the TBA's increased political lobbying was already yielding results, notably the government's recent announcement that stud farms will be eligible for new single farm payments, something which is estimated to be worth £10 million per annum to breeders. He added that, while the new expanded fillies' program in 2004 had proved successful, those who were concerned that so many new races might undermine the British Pattern would be reassured that the TBA would be proposing only two new group III races at next week's European Pattern Meeting.