Consider heritable traits when planning matings

Weaknesses should be eliminated where possible to enhance breed’s future

Now that the government has laid the statutory instrument before parliament to repeal the levy system, everyone involved with British racing must hope that its passage is smooth and that the additional revenue it promises is delivered from the outset.

The BHA, its chairman and chief executive, and all involved in the process, have worked extremely hard to reach this position, and they deserve full credit for achieving what has to be regarded as a positive result.

After more than 50 years of the Horserace Betting Levy Board being the paymaster of British racing, its eventual demise marks a sea change in the relationship between the sport and its major funders, and how that funding is approached. Through the Racing Authority, which will replace the Levy Board as the spending body, there will be a direct relationship with the betting industry, providing an opportunity for the two sides to work together to grow the cake, which supports everyone. 

The mistrust and constant manoeuvering that has beset the industry for so long must be swept away and a way found to work together effectively. A new generation of more open and innovative betting operators will help, and as has been shown through the approved betting partners policy, it is vital that a good flow of information is available, so that initiatives can be assessed and benchmarked.

The Betting Partners Working Party was able to tinker around the edges, and the BHA’s Race Planning Committee even enjoyed the assistance of a friendly bookmaker to provide advice when actions were being contemplated that could damage betting turnover, but these tended to be reactive rather than proactive actions.

I am sure that most of the fixture list and race programme is fine but, while remembering that racing has built up a pattern and programme over many years, there must be scope for exciting innovation that catches the mood of modern-day punters and focuses their attention on or back to racing. I very much look forward to the modern betting industry grasping this opportunity and working with racing to everyone’s benefit.

For breeders, though, matters closer to home demand slightly more immediate attention, for this is the busiest time of the year, as foaling and covering are in full swing. Every covering made and every foal produced are the result of careful consideration by the mare owner, with many factors taken into account in making the decisions.

It cannot be good for anyone to knowingly breed traits that affect the life and racing ability of our horses

The term Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) might be new to most of us, but they are just the values we use where they are available. 

We look at pedigrees; we have detailed records going back many years; we examine racing performance of both the sire and the dam and the distance they performed over; we consider conformation, and we delve into both sides of the pedigree to see how progeny and bloodlines have performed.  All this information is in the public domain and readily available. 

We might or might not know of unwanted heritable traits, such as wind or soundness problems, a tendency to bleed, or other less common but important heritable issues, which can be shown to be passed on from one generation to the next.

We have our own ideas about the importance of these and many other known factors that influence us, and we knowingly ignore or take a risk on some.  But are we doing the breed a disservice by ignoring these problems for the sake of short-term financial gain?

Research to show that some unwanted traits are inheritable through a particular bloodline may not be universally welcomed, but if we intend to continue to improve the breed, we must be aware of these issues and consider, where possible, the option of breeding them out of future generations. 

This is not an easy subject, but it is one we should grasp. It cannot be good for anyone to knowingly breed traits that affect the life and racing ability of our horses, when we are able to eliminate them.

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