'Supervisory Board' Recommended for British Racing Board, Jockey Club

From Racenews
Nigel Elwes used the opportunity of his final speech as chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association to put forward a personal idea of a new structure to run British racing.

Speaking Tuesday at the TBA's annual general meeting at the Churchill Hotel in London, Elwes -- who has completed a five-year term as chairman -- suggested his own idea that a "supervisory board" should be implemented to establish broad policy and monitor the work of the British Horseracing Board and the Jockey Club.

Elwes said: "Whatever political problems the industry faces, we should not forget that we are looking at total prize money of something over £100 million for 2003 which compares with £85 million in 2002.

"This is no mean achievement and bodes well for the future. Furthermore the BHB now has a strong executive under the leadership of Greg Nichols who has done a great job thus far, having hit the deck running.

"There does however appear to be something of a logjam, which must somehow be broken. The board of the BHB must be restructured -- it is too large and doesn't allow the executive team freedom to run the business. The Future Funding Plan, or the son of it, needs to be implemented and the BHB needs to work much more closely with the racecourses.

"How do we break the logjam? Maybe, the original restructuring plans for the BHB did not go far enough. Maybe we should be thinking along the lines of a management structure similar to that adopted by some larger European corporations.

"They operate with a supervisory Board made up of the great and the good with responsibility for establishing broad policy and for monitoring an executive board. In our case the executive board would comprise the BHB executive team together with representatives from the major trade associations, including the TBA obviously.

"The executive board would have responsibility for the day-to-day running of the racing industry covering all commercial activities and marketing, training and recruitment. Regulation and integrity would continue to be the responsibility of the Jockey Club who would also come under the watchful eye of the supervisory board. It is just a thought!"

Elwes also looked at the ongoing problem of overproduction in Thoroughbred breeding and suggested that, while there was little the TBA could do to actually force breeders to address the issue, it was hoped that more mare owners would use stallions restricted to a set number of mares.

In referring to a recent published report on the subject, Elwes noted that the recently-published Weatherbys "Return Of Mares", which collated data up to the end of September and is therefore an understatement, showed that 23 stallions listed covered more than 150 mares in 2002, of which only one stood in Britain, and that Ireland produced 9,252 foals - only 200 less than the combined production of Britain and Ireland in 1984.

"The problem of over production is not an easy one to resolve and the TBA would be wrong to even try to lay down guidelines on the number of mares which a stallion should cover," continued Elwes.

"In the end, I believe that market forces will resolve the problem. Speaking as a mare owner, what matters to me is that I know how many mares any individual stallion will cover before signing the nomination agreement. Without this knowledge, how can I decide if the nomination fee represents good value?

"It is interesting to look at the TBA's standard nomination agreement which has been in existence for many years. This specifically requires the number of mares to be covered to be disclosed, under special conditions. It also goes on to state that if the stallion covers more than the specified number of mares his fee is reduced pro-rata.

"Unfortunately, many stallion studs do not support the TBA agreement in its original form and this section is often deleted from the special conditions. It is up to mare owners to ensure that this is always included.

"One other point while on this subject. As we know well, statistics can all too easily be manipulated to prove a point especially among marketing men. We must try to ensure that breeders focus on stallion statistics which illustrate the percentage of winners to foals and not total prize money won.

"Thus you will see in the (TBA's) Thoroughbred Breeder magazine we always use the statistics which demonstrate a stallion's true ability."

Other topics raised by Elwes, who is being succeeded by Philip Freedman,

Opportunities For Fillies:
The TBA welcomed the decision to award Listed status to four mares' National Hunt races in 2002 and the addition of four new mares handicap hurdles, each worth at least £30,000, this year, plus raising the jump pattern allowance for fillies from 5lb to 7lb.

National Hunt Racing
Elwes reported: "The threat to National Hunt racing looms as large as ever and we must all do what we can to protect it.. National Hunt racing produces a thrilling and testing type of horse racing, largely unique to Britain and Ireland." Elwes welcomed a number of new initiatives, especially the Junior National Hunt Flat Series, and the relocation of the National Hunt Stallion Parade to Cheltenham on Thomas Pink Gold Cup day in November, something he hoped would be a permanent move.

Training and Recruitment:
Elwes welcomed the success of the British Stud Staff Training Scheme but announced a thorough review of all training and recruitment to be carried out jointly by the TBA and National Stud, with help from the Levy Board, in the coming months.

New Members:
Membership of the TBA has grown by 400 to 2,916 since 1997 and it is hoped to add more new members, especially if payments of breeders' prizes, which will come to £2.4 million in 2003, are in future restricted to TBA members.

Elwes ended his speech positively and said: "I concluded my statement last year on an optimistic note and, although the immediate future once again looks clouded with uncertainty, I still believe that the outlook for the racing and breeding industry in Great Britain has never been better. We still breed some of the best thoroughbreds in the world and the quality, variety and integrity of our racing remains the envy of our competitors."