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By Graham Potter | Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Will racehorse breeder heavyweights, through the office of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (TBA), and Racing Australia (RA) face off in court?

That has been mooted as a distinct possibility if the two groups fail to find enough common ground to help them find a way through the current impasse that clouds their relationship.

The issue at stake seems a fairly simple one. RA wants breeders to be subject to the rules of racing. Breeders want no part of it!

RA’s proposal would allow the racing industry to have regulation powers over the breeding industry.

Breeders have described as nothing less than a power grab.

"The proposal by Racing Australia would see a body which is completely unaccountable take control of the multi-billion-dollar industry, which is unacceptable to nearly every breeder I've spoken to," said TBA president Basil Nolan, who pointed out breeders had no official representation at RA board level.

"Breeders aren't against reform,” Nolan said when talking to The Age. “In fact we have put forward a proposal to work with Racing Australia to better regulate our industry. We really would rather avoid going to court on this issue, but the ball is in Racing Australia's court.

“The rules of racing and Racing Australia are there for the regulation of racing rather than breeding, which is a primary industry,” asserted Nolan.

“This is nothing more than a power grab by Racing Australia. It is as if the butchers suddenly decided they wanted to regulate the farmers.”

The TBA confirmed it has, ‘already sought legal opinion on Racing Australia's new policy and believes this move goes beyond the current powers of the racing authorities.


The motivation for RA’s proposal is its concern for transparency of ownership and animal welfare.

An RA statement, in part, reads, ‘Traceability is the cornerstone of integrity and will also underpin the industry’s drive on animal welfare standards.’

It also states,''It should be noted that fewer than a dozen Rules of Racing apply to horses prior to them being registered as racehorses. The vast majority of the rules relate to racehorses in competition and licenced persons. However, key integrity rules relating to anabolic steroids and gene doping would apply from birth as well as a requirement to account for the fate and destination of horses never registered as racehorses.'

It also claims that the fact that no authority regulates 'a significant number of thoroughbreds is unacceptable in the modern era, where community values and expectations have evolved from the past.'

And their bottom line from an RA spokesman, “We can't have large number of horses unaccounted for and we need some authority over a horse's life cycle."


So is it an ill-advised power grab or a logical, necessary overlap important of sections of the thoroughbred industry?

RA says it this matter has been under discussion with TBA and sales companies for two years and it acknowledges that, ‘Importantly, we have agreed on a number of issues, especially the introduction of a register at auctions of the names of all beneficial owners of horses offered for sale.'

RA wants more than that.

For its part, the TBA say they will, ‘support any reform which enhances our industry, but this move does not do that.'

The TAB also put on record that they have tried to put regulations in place themselves in the past, proposing new rules relating to welfare, transparency and integrity ... an independent Stud Book steward to police that ... along with severe penalties for those who breached any of those proposed rules.

That didn’t happen ... and, in the latest instance, the TAB claim that their views were simply dismissed by RA, who moved on with their own agenda ... leading to the current impasse.


Where to now?

A court case does seem to have the inside line given the on-going hard-headed approach by both parties but the hope has to be there that something ... like reason ... can emerge to upset that result.

If it does get the expensive legal stage, the only big winners, once again, will be the law firms working for the two sides.

God, they must love the racing industry!

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