Australia's Thoroughbred breeders have taken a significant step toward unity with a merger of its two leading bodies. Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) and Aushorse jointly announced their amalgamation in a press statement earlier this month.
The historic signing signaled an end to a 10-year impasse since the two bodies went their separate ways. During that time, the Australian Thoroughbred industry has fallen farther behind that of New Zealand in promotional terms.
At least a half-dozen of the most commercial stud farms broke away in 1993, forming the Commercial Breeders of Australia, later renamed Aushorse. The fragmentation came as the major farms and the main body of breeders perceived their respective interests best served with a separate marketing approach.
In real terms, the core of the division came as the major farms wanted to commit increasing efforts of promotion beyond Australia. With just 13 shuttlers operating that year, the majority of breeders cared little for the envisaged international thrust as the larger operations positioned themselves to make Australian-breds a commodity beyond the domestic market.
Asia was the prime target and the incredible growth of racing not only in Hong Kong, but also in Singapore and Malaysia, is a significant factor in the heady bloodstock market rise--and the spiraling use of shuttle stallions.
Richard Turnley will continue to chair the TBA, current Aushorse head John Messara becoming vice-chairman. Aushorse will continue and comprise directors from both associations.
"This is the first step in having our industry speak with a unified voice, and it can only be to the benefit of all Thoroughbred breeders," Turnley said.
"A divided voice is now united," Messara said. "This merger gives all breeders a voice with so much more strength when dealing with governments and various associations."
Challenges are many and varied. Australia's sheer geography lends itself to a fragmented approach, something North American breeders understand only too well. A leading New Zealand breeder once confided that its unity would also be sorely tested by Australia's size. But the reality is that New Zealand promotion has always been ahead regardless of the respective quality and quantities.
Another challenge is the bonus scheme that operates in New South Wales, a pale imitation of those pioneered in Victoria and successfully copied in Queensland. The two bodies have traditionally held opposing views about the NSW scheme, which is not supported by many of the Aushorse-aligned farms.