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ITBA seminar meets challenges head on

A GREATER concentration on producing quality horses, a stricter appraisal of broodmare bands, along with the unique position that the thoroughbred occupies in Ireland and the economic downturn were amongst the issues dealt with by a diverse and engaging panel at the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association National Seminar held on Friday at the Hotel Kilkenny in Kilkenny.

An audience of around 450 breeders, both members and non-members of the ITBA, listened to speakers from the world of politics and economics, from the veterinary and racehorse training professions, as well as leading bloodstock agents, stud managers and two directors from the sales companies.

Divided into three sections, the forum adopted a common-sense and straight-talking approach to the financial and structrual issues currently confronting the thoroughbred industry in Ireland. The overarching theme of the day was that the global economic situation is having a huge impact on the industry, but allied to that breeders have to assess the quality of stock being bred, what their motivation is behind the breeding of their foals along with a need to move away from breeding horses in which the market place has no interest

"Although we have been breeding top horses who have won races throughout the world, we have been living in a golden era that has masked the fact that we have been breeding more bad horses than ever before," said Luke Lillingston who offered his perspectives as a breeder and a bloodstock agent.

He, along with a number of other speakers, discussed how the emphasis in the industry must change from breeding horses with the sales ring as a main  objective. Breeders must start to prioritise breeding racehorses and winners, which must be of a decent standard. As was stated: ‘We have to concentrate more on the winning post than the auctioneer's hammer'.

Bloodstock journalist Bill Oppenheim continued with this theme pointing out that over the last decade many new entrants into the industry had been attracted into the business as sellers and not end-users. It was felt that improvements in prize-money would help to attract people back into racehorse ownership.

Similar views were expressed by other speakers who reiterated the importance of the mare in the breeding equation, coupled with a concerted move away from mediocrity. John Osborne remarked that through his analysis of the statistics of Classic performers, most were out of multiple winning mares: he felt that might be because not only had those mares proved themselves to be sound but they were capable of getting sound and tough racehorses, while also possibly had the genetic potential to produce a top-class runner. There was acknowledgement that, of course, top-class runners can come out of the left field but that statistically that is most improbable.

Trickledown Stud's Paul Thorman, like many who spoke before and afterwards, pointed out that now is the time to stop breeding to some mares and one way to remove some out of the breeding cycle, maybe even for just a year, would be to avoid breeding from a late foaling mare,those yet to have runners or those that has not had a winner from their first four runners.  He also advised breeders to avoid some of the too good-to-be true offers from the stallion farms.

For the full report, read Monday's Racing Post or buy online





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