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Breeders' prizes no relevance to over-production

John Berry recently called for the end of Breeders' Prizes for British breeders and their consolidation into the prize-money paid to owners, blaming them for encouraging over-production and advising breeders that, if they want to share in the rewards earned by the horses they have bred, they should race them themselves. If only we were all wealthy enough to be able to afford to act on this suggestion!

I am principally a breeder of National Hunt horses, and it is from this perspective that I view Breeders' Prizes. A NH broodmare is mated with the aim of producing a winner several years down the line.

Often by the time that a mare has proved her ability to breed winners, she is too old to breed from again or has died. The rewards that can be reaped by successful Flat breeders, of obtaining higher prices for the siblings of the winners produced by their mares, are much more rarely available to the NH breeder.

Breeders' Prizes produce the vital ingredient of ‘hope' in this situation, the hope that, if ten years down the line the breeder finds that he has produced aCheltenham Gold Cup or Grand National winner, then he will gain a small amount of recognition and a useful monetary reward.

It is obviously true that, since Breeders' Prizes are intended to encourage successful breeding, then they areinevitably likely to lead to unsuccessful breeding also. They are therefore likely to lead to more production rather than less. However, since vast increases in foal crops have arisen in Ireland, where no Breeders' Prizes are given, I seriously doubt that they are a major factor in over-production. 

Furthermore, one has to ask just who suffers from over-production? It is not owners, who benefit from an imbalance of supply and demand to buy animals more cheaply. It is not trainers, whose owners are therefore likely to be able to afford more horses. Neither is it stable staff, stallion studs, vets, farriers or stud employees, all of whose jobs are supported by the production of large numbers of racehorses. For the Levy Board over-production is a far lesser evil than under-production would be, as it ensures that there is a ready supply of animals to fill the needs of a competitive racing programme.

No, the only people who suffer from over-production are the breeders, whose stock sells for lower prices as a result. And the people who will suffer from the ending of Breeders' Prizes are members of that already endangered species, the British breeder (in particular the British NH breeder), who have done nothing to cause over-production in the first place.

As I understand it, the Levy Board is meant to use its funds to benefit British racing and breeding as a whole. It is right that the lion's share of these funds should go to owners, for they pay the bills that keep racing going; and it is reasonable that significant contributions should be made to Racing Integrity and Veterinary Research.

But it is also right that a relatively small sum should alsogo to create a little hope in another important sector without whom racing would not exist, the breeders who produce the animals in the first place. They put a great deal into the sport; they create employment for many people in the rural economy; and they take very little out. The recognition afforded by the occasional Breeders' Prize is surely not too much to ask.

Bryan Mayoh
Eskdale Stud,North Yorkshire





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