At its meeting earlier this month the BHB Board reviewed its prize money expenditure priorities for 2007, particularly in light of declining levy income forecasts. As a result, the Board reluctantly agreed to terminate BHB’s Owners’ Premium Scheme for British Bred Horses on 31st December 2006.
The principal factor behind the termination was that, at its current levels of funding, the Scheme did not sufficiently influence decision-making by owners and breeders, thus negating one of the Scheme’s central aims.
Payments will continue until the end of the year under the current terms of the Scheme, which has been funded by the Levy Board from 2005 onwards following BHB’s enforced expenditure cutbacks at the end of 2004. All British breeders who have registered a foal in the last three years, along with all owners with horses eligible for payments, have been written to by BHB with details of the Scheme’s termination.
Over £1.6m has been paid out to the owners of British bred horses since the Scheme’s introduction in 2004 as one of the recommendations of the Racing Review of 2003, but it has not been possible to fund the Scheme to the levels originally anticipated. It was forecast that over £7m a year would be spent on the Scheme upon it reaching maturity.
BHB Chief Executive Greg Nichols said: “We are highly appreciative of the Levy Board’s efforts in stepping in to fund the Owners’ Premium Scheme in 2005 and 2006, and it is disappointing to now have to end the Scheme, as we had high hopes at its inception that it would enhance the viability of the British breeding industry and go some way to levelling the playing field with our international competitors, notably in Ireland.
“The reality is that sustaining levels of prize money, which we have striven to augment from abysmal levels in the 1990s, must be the sport’s priority.”
Racehorse Owners Association President Chris Deuters said: “Although the ROA was a very strong advocate of the Owners’ Premium Scheme – and fought very hard to have it continued after the ECJ ruling decimated the BHB’s income – we have found it difficult to support continuing the Scheme at a time when Levy income is dropping so alarmingly. We had to make a choice between limiting the damage to prize money next year, or seeing prize money drop even more to pay for the Scheme.
“As much as we are in favour of an Owners’ Premium Scheme, it cannot be viewed as a one or two-year project. If a Scheme is to work properly, funding must be guaranteed for at least a five-year stretch. And it must be sufficient to make a purchaser want to choose a British-bred horse. If a Scheme remains vulnerable to annual funding budgets, it is unlikely ever to gain the momentum necessary for its success. If and when the Levy recovers substantially, we must ring-fence money for the Scheme over a five-year period.”
TBA Chief Executive Louise Kemble said: “The TBA supported BHB’s proposals that the £1.2m funding for the Owners’ Premium Scheme in 2006 should be re-directed from the overall £3m HBLB allocation to Breeders Prizes because we wanted the Scheme to continue in the genuine best interests of British owners and breeders.
“Whilst the TBA wants the Scheme to continue, it is with regret that without owners’ support we accept this is not possible. We also accept that the original £3 million allocated must now be cut back in view of the fall in receipts from the Levy. However we trust that it will not be singled out for more severe reductions than other types of Levy Board expenditure.”