5th Mar 2012
The race of the season so far was probably the intervarsity quiz at Expo 2012 where we saw the INS students fall short by one point to overhaul the NUIM team. We breathed a sigh of relief that our students were not entrusted with the first prize of €500, since we are sure it was not going to be spent on reams of paper or print cartridges. Alarmingly, when a picture of yours truly was put on the screen in the picture round, the INS student buzzer stayed silent. They obviously did not recognize the smiling face on the photograph, as they have only witnessed the furrowed brow and downcast look of the headmaster in front of his reprobates.
The argument at Expo about NH fillies was interesting. Davy Russell spoke well and with good humour about a subject near his heart. The impression that I got was of the difficulty we always seem to face in reconciling what the punter wants with what the breeder wants with what the stallion master wants and what the owner needs. In most businesses the “customer” is always right and any business tries to mould itself to continue to keep the customer happy. We never seem agreed on who exactly is the customer. The people paying the greatest amount individually are the owners. Collectively the punters contribute a large amount through the voracious filter of the betting industry. The customers who pay the entrance fee to the race meetings are also significant.
It would be ideal if all breeding animals were merit-tested before production starts. Ironically the downside is that such a high proportion of racehorses fail to achieve the level which is considered value-enhancing. This is due to the benchmark being black type which is confined to the top 8-10% of the racing stock. So what is the incentive for the filly-owner? The carrot is the enhanced value, the stick is the downgrading of the individual and perhaps her relations. So the option is often chosen on balance to leave the filly unraced and therefore not merit-tested.
The Forum at Expo 2012 was well-presented and interesting, if a bit “safe”. Mark Johnston gave the yearling Bonus scheme of which I am Chairman, a bit of a kicking. It is time for people to nail their colours to the mast on the future for this scheme so I suppose Mark’s contribution was helpful as the starters pistol is helpful. We hope to retain the cooperative spirit which the scheme has shown. We now compete with a very global racing industry and while we have had many squabbles in the past, our future prospects probably depend on more regional thinking if we are to compete with the strength of the racing product in other parts of the world. Tradition is our foundation, but then tradition is history, what is the future?