The third Economic Impact Study of the British Thoroughbred breeding industry was published on Wednesday. In the report, key opportunities and challenges for the sector were outlined and provide a blueprint for future progress.
Building on reports published in 2014 and 2018, the study was commissioned by the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (TBA) and conducted by PwC. Both the Racing Foundation and Horseracing Betting Levy Board (HBLB) funded the project.
British breeding was found to have an impact of over £375m of gross value added to the rural economy, as well as being a world-leading producer of top racehorses and the foundation for a world-class racing programme. There was also greater insight gained into the current climate in which Thoroughbred breeders operate through deeper analysis of factors affecting profitability and the overall health of the sector.
Over 7.5 million data points were analysed in the project following the impact of both Brexit and COVID-19. One of the highlights of the report was how the Great British Bonus scheme has narrowed the gap in average sales prices between colts and fillies at British sales. There are ongoing profitability issues, particularly in the middle and lower tiers of the market, where smaller operators continue to exit the industry. Forecasts on foal crops and broodmare numbers in the report also show a steady but continual reduction without intervention.
The report also outlined some recommendations for the industry to pursue, including the consideration of prize-money levels, new targeted industry incentives, creation of accessible ownership models, encouragement and support of the domestic stallion market, and the development of recruitment and retention strategies to meet the industry's talent requirements.
TBA Chairman Julian Richmond-Watson said, “It is timely as it coincides with the racing industry's development of a new long-term strategy, led by the BHA, which is an opportunity to shape racing's future and strengthen our position as a world-leader in thoroughbred racing and breeding.
“The report will be a key evidence bank for this vital work, as industry stakeholders seek to work together to address the challenges for the long-term health of the sport. A high quality and sustainable supply of thoroughbred horses is a specific objective underpinning the whole strategy, and is a requisite for an attractive, competitive and quality racing product.”
TBA Chief Executive Claire Sheppard added, “It is of fundamental importance that as the TBA, and as an industry, we take action based on a sound and robust evidence base and have a real depth of understanding of underlying trends across the whole industry.
“As this is the third study the TBA has commissioned, a comprehensive and longer-term picture of the key trends now exists, and the data have helped PwC to model into the future and map out what could happen if these trends continue and we do not take interventions.
“The long-term declining trend in the key indicators are an ongoing concern, but there are signs of hope for the future in the upturn in the 2022 British-born foal crop numbers and the positive impact of the Great British Bonus on sales prices and owner returns.
“The report demonstrates that incentives and strategic interventions can work. We must learn from this and take forward a plan with the support of breeders in particular and the racing industry in general as part of racing's new strategy.”