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TBA continues push for 2019 introduction of British-bred bonus scheme

Call for urgency comes as economic impact report highlights industry struggles

Small to medium sized breeders are facing extinction, the TBA has warned
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Thoroughbred Breeders' Association board member Bryan Mayoh has reiterated his desire to see a new 'British Bred Premium Scheme' introduced next year following the publication of an economic impact study on Tuesday that warned the future of British breeding is at risk.

The report, commissioned by the TBA and published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the sustainability of the racing calendar is under threat such is the plight faced by British breeders, with 66 per cent of operators now making a loss.

Breeders are seeing an average return on capital of between one and three per cent, compared to 22 per cent for the gambling industry, leading the report to conclude that numerous small to medium sized operations are "facing extinction" unless the figures can be improved.

The TBA on Tuesday promised several measures in a bid to do so, the first of which is a new owners' premium scheme based on incentivising British racing stock and built out of the existing Plus 10 programme and National Hunt Mare Owners' Prize Scheme (NHMOPS).

TBA officials are eager to introduce the new bonuses in 2019 but must first secure the backing of racing's stakeholders, with the scheme requiring an additional £3 million per year in Levy Board funding on top of existing contributions.

While stressing the plans do not represent a "silver bullet" solution to all of the issues raised, Mayoh said he is optimistic funding for the proposal will be secured in the coming weeks and has urged racing's leaders not to let another year pass without taking action.

"It's a very short time scale but I don't want to lose another year," he said. "If we can't get it done, we'll have to do it next year but I'm not accepting that as a possibility - we can get it done. We'd lose a year and a year is a long time."

Presenting details of the proposal in London on Tuesday, Mayoh explained that eligibility would be based on nominations, as for the Plus 10 programme, with foals costing £150, yearlings £200 and two-year-olds £350.

Eligible horses would be split into two categories and bonus payments graduated according to breeding. An eligible winner who is British-bred and by a British-based stallion would receive 100 per cent of the bonus, compared to a British-bred winner by a foreign sire, who would get only 50 per cent.

Approximately 850 races for two- and three-year-olds, along with a further 150 fillies only races on the Flat would carry bonuses, along with a further 1,900 jumps races, with the TBA envisaging substantially higher bonuses than currently offered.

"We've been working on this for six months now and have gone a long way," Mayoh said. "We've got the backing of The Horsemen's Group and the BHA have been very positive. Hopefully it should go through and I'm optimistic."

Mayoh's fellow elected board member, Philip Newton, made his own impassioned plea for action at Tuesday's presentation, describing the economic impact study, the second such publication by the TBA following the first in 2014, as a "landmark document" that he hoped would trigger an industry-wide conversation about the way forward.

Newton reflected on breeders' meagre return on investment figures compared to other racing participants and said: "Breeding is key to everything everybody else does but it seems to me that the industry is upside-down."

'Don't underestimate Brexit'

Uncertainty surrounding Britain's departure from the European Union only added to the warnings issues on Tuesday, with chairman Julian Richmond-Watson sounding an especially cautious note.

"Whatever shape Brexit takes, it's going to have an impact," he said, adding that the movement of horses could become harder and that there is the potential for things to go "quite badly wrong".

The report warns that an end to the Tripartite Agreement, which guarantees the free movement of horses between Britain, Ireland and France, could have "substantial repercussions for the racing product", citing the fact more than 50 per cent of jumps horses in training are now Irish-bred.

However, the report also notes that such an outcome could present an opportunity for a fresh agreement involving more countries.

Reasons to be cheerful

Despite the concerns, the report provides some cause for optimism, as it reaffirms Britain's status as a world class racing and breeding industry.

Horseracing's total contribution to the UK economy is estimated to be £3.5 billion, with the breeding industry alone accounting for £427m of that total and supporting more than 19,000 jobs.

Britain hosted 24 of the world's top 100 races in 2017, with the same number of British-bred horses taking their place in the top 100 performers of the year, with Irish runners next best on 18.

Responding to the publication of the report, the BHA's chief operating officer Richard Wayman said: "We welcome the publishing of the TBA's Economic Impact Study and the opportunity it presents to highlight our collective responsibility to support the British breeding industry.

"Industry initiatives such as the Plus 10 bonus scheme have proved extremely successful in recent years and we look forward to continuing to work with the TBA and others across our industry to improve the economic outlook for British breeders."  

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Breeding is key to everything everybody else does but it seems to me that the industry is upside-down
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