Urban Sea: dam of Sea The Stars and Galileo is only the second equine entree into the ITBA Hall of FamePICTURE: Peter Mooney
Foley offers sobering message at ITBA awards
A WEEKEND of sobering examples about the troubled state of the Irish racing and breeding industry continued on Saturday night at the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association's annual awards.
But it was twinned with further celebrations of Sea The Stars and the revelation that his jockey Michael Kinane felt that the colt tended to run to only 75 per cent of what he was capable of.
Last year's champion racehorse won the three-year-old colt award while his dam Urban Sea became only the second equine entrée to the ITBA's Hall of Fame.
The association's chairman Joe Foley described Sea The Stars' Prixde l'Arc de Triomphe victory as "one of those rare moments in sport where people can say ‘we were there'."
Joe Foley: "breeders are
having a tough time"
But he laced that remark by revealing that the son of Cape Cross is one of only seven new stallions in Ireland this year compared to the 24 who took up stud duties two years ago. According to Foley, around a third of Irish broodmares are at least 16 years old because "breeders are struggling to upgrade".
His remarks follow the sobering claim from Denis Brosnan, chairman of Horseracing Ireland, at a top-level seminar on Friday night that employment in the country's racing and breeding industry had dropped by 20 per cent last year.
"Breeders are having a tough time," Foley said, while arguing that the industry "doesn't get the same level of support as other sectors" from government . He also said "a business expansion scheme was vitally needed" to encourage Irish breeders and ensure that "we don't lose any more ground to our foreign competitors".
The mood of Foley's opening speech contrasted with Sea The Star's trainer John Oxx's humorous reflections on "the tension" of last season as he collected the three-year-old colt award alongside owner Christoper Tsui.
"I suppose as a trainer you can forget what it means to have a winner," Oxx said. "But with Sea The Stars you saw what it
Sea The Stars: tended to run to only 75 per cent of capabilitiesPICTURE: Press Association
meant to a lot of people. I have never known a horse that had such a public following.
"I didn't enjoy his race days, there was too much tension, but I enjoyed what he meant to everyone."
Oxx revealed that he had discussed with jockey Mick Kinane the idea of trying to win by as wide a margin as possible before the Eclipse Stakes only to be told by the jockey: "This fella will never win by more than a length or two."
Kinane also told Oxx that the racing public might only ever get to see "75 per cent of what this horse is capable of", such was his switched-off racing style.