Letter from TBA President Basil Nolan

Thoroughbred Breeders Australia President Basil Nolan has posted the following letter to all breeders on the TBA website.

On behalf of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA), I write to you about an important proposal that Racing Australia has made in respect to breeding.  It is the TBA’s view that this change would see Racing Australia, through the authority of the state racing bodies, have control over the breeding industry.

Below we provide some information on this proposal; how it came about and the arguments for and against which I would urge you to take the time to read.

Racing Australia proposal:
If Racing Australia is successful, a new condition will be added to mare returns to the Australian Stud Book.  When you sign off on a mare return you will have to tick the following box in order to have that foal accepted into the Stud Book:

“As a condition of my participation in the Australian Stud Book and the admission of horse(s) owned by me to the Australian Stud Book, I will comply and be bound by the Australian Rules of Racing and the local rules, regulations, bylaws and conditions of the Principal Racing Authority in the State or Territory in which I reside”.

Furthermore, Racing Australia have provided a new definition of what constitutes a breeder (in relation to coming under the Rules of Racing):

“Any person who is engaged in the breeding of horses for Thoroughbred Racing and/or who owns or leases a broodmare or stallion entered, or eligible for entry, in the Australian Stud Book or as otherwise defined by the Rules of the Australian Stud Book (as amended from time to time) and includes, without limitation, a Stud.”

What would this mean?
The view of TBA is that, if implemented, this proposal would give racing authorities total control over breeding as Racing Australia would be able to enact a rule relating specifically to breeding and then enforce that through your local racing authority, such as Racing NSW or Racing Victoria.

Any person or organisation caught in breach of the Rules could face a hearing in front of stewards and then punishment, such as a fine or ban.  Essentially, in TBA’s view, it amounts to the licensing of breeders by proxy.

For example, Racing Australia may seek to implement rules relating to the treatment of horses or even animal husbandry.  Perhaps there could come a time when Racing Australia imposed a ban on a practice such as Periosteal Elevation (stripping).  Anybody caught doing this could be barred not only from racing, but from having any involvement in the breeding industry.

Racing Australia have also made clear in our discussions on this rule change that they would envisage stewards being given the authority to walk on to any property deemed to be involved in the breeding of racehorses.

It is unclear what would happen if a banned individual lived on a stud farm they owned; would they be forced to move out or send all their horses away?  Or if the stud concerned had a number of different properties or was a multinational company, would the entire company be shut down?

Racing Australia’s new definition of breeder is also very broad and may well include anybody working within the breeding industry.

Racing Australia’s justification
There are three main arguments that Racing Australia has put forward for why this change is necessary.

There needs to be improved transparency of who owns a horse so this can be monitored through the animal’s career.  This is best done by bringing everybody under the Rules of Racing.

A scandal in breeding could negatively affect the racing industry and cause governments to get involved in the sport, therefore racing authorities need to be able to punish those who have breached the Rules or are guilty of something in the breeding sphere.  Without having clear authority conferred by the acceptance of the Rules this may not be possible.

There is a threat of gene doping.  John Messara has stated a number of times that he believes dishonest people may try to alter the genes of horses to benefit performance.  Because of this threat breeders need to be under the rules of racing so racing authorities can introduce adequate testing to prevent gene doping occurring.

The TBA view
This issue has been discussed for some time now and has been debated at a number of TBA and Aushorse committee meetings and by the state breeding associations.  I’m pleased to say there has been a united position that this proposal would be detrimental for the breeding industry.

TBA Objections
The principal reasons for this view 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 horse racing 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, 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 there is no governing body 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 response to Racing Australia’s specific arguments the TBA believes:
We have supported increased transparency of ownership.  However the natural place for this register to be kept until a horse is registered to race is with the Australian Stud Book.  The Stud Book already has a register of ‘contact breeders’ and it would not be difficult to change the registration to include all beneficial owners.

It is far more likely for a scandal in racing to negatively affect breeding than the other way around: cobalt positives, issues with the sale of horses to Hong Kong and jockeys betting on racing are all recent examples of this.  Furthermore, breeding does not exist in a vacuum of regulation; farms operate under state laws for things such as welfare and there are rules and conditions to regulate the sales process at auction.

As for gene doping, or any other integrity threat that emerges, we are happy for the Stud Book to introduce testing (such as the taking of a blood sample of a foal) as long as there has been proper consultation with breeders.  We note that the world’s most eminent expert in gene therapy in horses, Dr Teruaki Tozaki from Japan’s Laboratory of Racing Chemistry, spoke on the issue at the Asian Racing Conference in January and said there had been no examples of gene doping in thoroughbreds.

Some questions you may have:

Who is Racing Australia?
Racing Australia is the new name for what was previously the Australian Racing Board (ARB).  Its committee comprises John Messara (chair and head of Racing NSW), Frances Nelson QC (chair of Thoroughbred Racing South Australia), David Moodie (chair of Racing Victoria), Ian Hall (currently runs Queensland racing), Bob Pearson (deputy chair of Racing & Wagering Western Australia) and Des Gleeson (TasRacing board member and representative for smaller states and territories).

It is worth noting that with John Messara and David Moodie on the board of Racing Australia that body has some prominent and experienced breeders.  But the composition of the board can and does change and there is no way of ensuring members of the committee of Racing Australia have any understanding of breeding in the future.

In terms of power, Racing Australia is dominated by Racing NSW and Racing Victoria, with each body having 35 per cent of the vote, essentially giving each the power of veto on all issues.

In the past 18 months with the transition of the ARB to Racing Australia the new body has become very important.  It has purchased the Australian Stud Book and now also runs RISA, which handles entries for racing across the country.  It is run out of Sydney and its chief executive is Peter McGauran.

Do they have the power to do this?
We have already had an initial legal opinion that some, if not all, of the PRAs who would enforce the rules imposed by Racing Australia would likely be acting beyond their powers.  Racing Australia does not enforce the rules and relies on the authority of the PRAs, such as Racing Victoria or Racing NSW.  But the laws which set up both those bodies only give them authority to regulate racing, not breeding.

If I’m already a racehorse owner aren’t I already under the Rules?
As we know, nearly all breeders are also racehorse owners too.  Simply put, as an owner you are bound by the Rules of Racing, but only in relation to a matter relating to your ownership.  This proposal would see Racing Australia and state racing authorities have complete authority over the industry as a whole (including the ability to create many more rules) as well as individuals.

For further information, please contact TBA chief executive Tom Reilly on 0423 146 334.

Kind regards.
Basil Nolan
President
Thoroughbred Breeders Australia