Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) president Basil Nolan has labelled Racing Australia’s proposal to bring breeders under the rules of racing as a “power grab”.
“It tells you everything about Racing Australia that they made the announcement without even bothering to inform TBA and while they were still supposed to be considering a proposal from us,” Nolan said.
“This is nothing more than a power-grab by Racing Australia, a body which is totally unaccountable. It’s as if the butchers suddenly decided they wanted to regulate farmers.”
TBA has written to breeders following this decision indicating their overwhelming opposition to this sledgehammer approach by Racing Australia – the full text of the letter is at the bottom of this article.
As part of a wide-ranging list of reforms issued on Friday, Racing Australia will add a clause to the Stallion Return, Mare Return and New Breeder Registration Form of the Stud Book wherein owners acknowledge that they will come under the rules of racing if they have an ownership interest in a foal or thoroughbred.
The TBA Board and the wider breeding industry are totally opposed to the new clause.
“The rules of racing and Racing Australia are there for the regulation of racing rather than breeding, which is a primary industry,” Nolan continued.
“They’re not relevant to breeders. In the 101 pages of the rules of racing there is only one reference to breeders.”
Racing Australia chairman John Messara and chief executive Peter McGauran met with breeders at the Inglis Easter Yearling sale to put forward the case for the proposals announced on Friday.
“At the end of that meeting a vote was taken of the more than 90 breeders present. No one was in favour of the proposal,” Nolan revealed.
Racing Australia said protocols for the enforcement of the rules will be developed with TBA input given the commercial and reputational concerns held by breeders in the event of any action by stewards.
Racing Australia considered at length TBA’s submission that these reforms be enacted under the rules of the Stud Book, but said enforcement of the rules of racing is the responsibility of the State Principal Racing Authorities (PRA).
TBA has already sought legal opinion on the new policy and will now consider all options in relation to this move by Racing Australia. Below is a letter.
I am very disappointed to inform you that Racing Australia today announced they will seek to bring breeders under the rules of racing.
This proposal has been discussed for some 18 months now and Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA), along with all of the state breeding associations, has been consistent in opposing it.
Essentially this proposal would give racing authorities total control over the Australian breeding industry as they would have the ability to enact any rule relating to breeding and enforce that through the powers of the state racing authorities.
The principal reasons TBA objects to this are as follows:
- There is no representation for breeders at Racing Australia. While some breeders may be on the board they are there to represent their state Principal Racing Authorities (PRAs) and not the breeding industry. Breeding is a multi-billion dollar industry in its own right and it should not be regulated by racing.
- Racing Australia and the PRAs that administer horseracing in each state are established to run racing and not breeding. TBA believes there is an insufficient understanding on the part of Racing Australia of the breeding industry. This belief was highlighted by the issue of a colt testing ‘positive’ to Regumate (under the new total ban on steroids) at last year’s Magic Millions January sale. Racing Australia had no idea whether Regumate should be classified as a steroid or not and, when the issue first came to light, its chief executive, Peter McGauran, told TBA: “This is nothing to do with us, we only make the rules.” Ultimately, after a lot of negative publicity for the breeding industry, Regumate was ruled not to be a steroid and the colt’s sale was unaffected.
- TBA is concerned that breeders would be bound by any new rules without proper consultation as there is no mechanism for breeders to have input into how the Rules of Racing are drawn up and applied. Again this is highlighted by the ban on steroids that was introduced; had there been proper consultation then it’s likely the negative publicity surrounding Regumate could have been avoided. Furthermore it is the experience of other stakeholder groups; jockeys, trainers and owners, that Racing Australia does a poor job at meaningful consultation.
- TBA is concerned by the lack of oversight of Racing Australia as it is a private company, with no governing body or minister overseeing it. While PRAs are ultimately responsible to state governments, if Racing Australia were to introduce bad policies there would be no higher authority for breeders to lodge a complaint or handle any dispute other than through the courts (state governments would have no authority over the national body).
- Overreach: the rules of racing give stewards and racing authorities very broad powers. For example, only last month, Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy sent a notice to all those currently covered by the Rules of Racing warning them about social media. His missive made clear that any Tweet or post which was deemed “offensive” was punishable under Rule AR 175. Would criticising the performance of a stallion on Twitter be deemed “offensive”?
In making today’s announcement Racing Australia mentioned welfare and integrity and I’m sure all breeders agree these are important areas for our industry. However, the rules of racing are there for racing and not breeding and racing authorities are there for running the racing industry. At present there is just one mention of breeders in the 101 pages of the rules of racing.
TBA is not against reform. In fact we put a proposal to Racing Australia (as the owner of the Australian Stud Book) which would have seen the stud book introduce new rules which would have enhanced animal welfare, transparency and integrity in the thoroughbred breeding industry.
We at TBA still believe our proposal – through the stud book – represents the best way forward in this issue. You can read those proposals in full as they are attached to this email.
TBA will now consider all options in relation to this move by Racing Australia. We have already sought legal opinion on Racing Australia’s new policy and believe this move goes beyond the powers that state racing authorities are entrusted with.
I have to say that it is disappointing that Racing Australia has not listened to our concerns.
At a recent meeting of breeders at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale Racing Australia chairman, John Messara, and chief executive, Peter McGauran, put forward the case for the proposals announced today and answered questions from many of the country’s leading breeders. At the end of that meeting a vote was taken of the more than 90 breeders present – none were in favour of the Racing Australia proposal.
I believe this is a vitally important issue for all breeders and TBA is committed to keeping you all informed of any developments. In the meantime I would urge you all to contact your principal racing authority and state racing minister to let them know what you think of Racing Australia’s proposal.
For more information contact TBA chief executive Tom Reilly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0423 146 334.
Thoroughbred Breeders Australia