It seems that Christmas was months ago with all the goings-on in the last month or so. We have finalised our mating plans for this season with 2 mares off to see new boy Poet’s Word at Shadwell Stud, one to Darley’s Group 1 winner Outstrip, and another to Lethal Force who stands at Cheveley Park. The A14 will become a very familiar road in the next few months!
As you will be aware, the market for horses is fairly tough at present, but we hope that
by improving our broodmare band, and choosing commercially attractive stallions, we will be able to survive where others, sadly, have had to quit the business. It is far from easy though – with somewhere like £15000 needed to raise a newborn to yearling stage, returns are way behind investments for many. Our new addition, Willbeme (Kyllachy), should prove a successful broodmare given she was a multiple winning sprinter rated in the high 90’s and has black-type listed status – as well as a rare pedigree free from both Danehill and Sadlers Wells lines. Wilma, as we call her, joined us only a week or so ago and has settled in well for what will be her maiden season.
The Battle continues….
Those of you that follow me either on here or on Twitter will be aware that I have contacted the BHA, TBA and ROA to discuss some issues raised by me and many others around the worrying challenges facing all parts of the industry. I have now received a reply from each of them and will be posting the letters in the coming weeks, together with some next steps. Whilst the parties I have written to represent important parts of the industry, they can at times seem to be representing an element which seems far removed from the majority of horsemen and race-goers. We must hold them accountable as paying members and producers of the raw materials needed to make racing happen – whilst ensuring we do not see a widening gap between the various levels of the sport. After all we all breed, own and train horses with the hope they will win a Derby, or a July Cup or a Champion Hurdle depending on our preferences. To lose the hope of that would be more damaging than any funding or Brexit crisis.
ARC Prize Money Decision
It is a travesty that ARC group have decided to reduce the prize money on offer at their tracks even before the reduction in the FOBT stake has come into effect. There is no doubt that the loss of income to bookmakers, and the resultant dip in likely payments into the levy, will threaten current levels of prize money. However, for ARC to act so prematurely, with the result being that this will also reduce the likelihood of the excellent appearance money payments for owners due to not reaching the threshold required, is scandalous. The industry is working hard to find alternate sources of funding to maintain levels and other racecourses are honouring their commitments pending an outcome. One can only hope that an immediate reduction is made to the money paid to ARC by the levy. I suggest that if ARC are not willing to stand by those who provide the horses for their races, then owners and trainers should think twice about supporting their racecourses.
Welfare is ours to sort
Following the BHA’s much publicised self-inflicted foot shooting incidents of late (coat waving, hind shoes etc.) and their statement that horses should race due to their own “free will”, the industry is coming increasingly under pressure to address public welfare concerns. In my view, a small but vociferous anti-racing faction is making the very most of the opportunities presented to them both through deaths of horses, and through the misguided actions and statements from within the sport. Whilst the horse people amongst us will react with dismissals based upon long-held practices, racing needs to recognise some of these concerns. In my view these should be tackled head on. We should be happy to open our doors to the discussions, but by the same token, we need to back up our beliefs and arguments with facts. We all know that the “whip” is nothing more than a foam padded stick which, used correctly, does no harm to the horse, but if we are arguing that it is a safety requirement then let us show that to be the case. In the case of equine deaths, rather than flattening fences and likely increasing the likelihood of injury at speed, let us compare these with deaths from paddock injuries or look at the root causes (if such things exist) and address the issues with science and irrefutable evidence. Likewise, the industry is showing the professional and caring side of racing. This must be increased by open days, by inviting those that would ban racing to visit the yards and see for themselves, and by ensuring retired horses have useful, safe lives after racing. We do so much good in this area, but fail to really engage the lay-man on these key areas.
It is not helped of course when Australian trainer Darren Weir is only today banned for 4 years for cruelty. It is a world away both literally and metaphorically from how horses are looked after usually – but the press surrounding this will once again fuel the ardour of those who would steal our sport away. Weir’s punishment, whilst affecting many staff and suppliers, in my view is nowhere near sufficient for the damage he has done to racing in Australia and worldwide – and the likely suffering he has overseen.
Please drop me a line with your comments either on here, on my Twitter page or by email. Meanwhile enjoy the racing and stay safe. – Stuart