LET me start this article with the South African racing industry’s most recently published Foal Registration figures, writes DAVID ALLAN.

They are:
2016     2972
2017     2712
2018     2096
2019     574

Aside from this continuing evidence of the reduction in thoroughbred production of South Africa – something that fuels the argument for fresh investment when so many are bailing out – why were only 574 foals born in 2019, registered? Would this figure go towards a total of – what? – 1700? And – what? – maybe 1400 in 2020? And what about 2021? Even less?

Aside from this decline in supply, figures falling far short of the numbers required for racing, let me focus on the following:

If only 574 foals have been registered by now (several months after the nominal deadline) we can be fairly sure that:

  1. There is an enormous backlog at the National Horseracing Authority (NHA) and,
  1. Plenty of breeders have not even started to make registrations due to costs, lack of earnings, and frankly what is now an in-built disrespect for the system,
  1. Breeders who paid for their foals months ago (like me) are being asked (under new regulations) to pay mare registrations by mid-July for the 2020 covering season when their paid-for 2019 foals are still not yet registered!

Also note that invoices are not issued. It is down to breeders to “remember” when to pay what, in changing times.

My columns have been largely supportive of the NHA’s (Stud Book) staff efforts, albeit with what we call constructive criticism in the knowledge of international implications for the Stud Book.

The contrast with overseas jurisdictions where the trade press and trade associations such as TBAs and FBAs rip into the authorities and sales companies on behalf of their constituent members (who pay them subs to do just that) is stark.

On the basis of several recent events, an observer from Mars would conclude that in SA racing and breeding, the only path to overhaul/reform/improvement or even
admitting the need for HELP is firstly to wait for complete collapse.

The key reason for supporting the NHA (I am talking about Stud Book, not other departments) is the fact that it is under scrutiny from the International Cataloguing Committee and International Stud Book committee more or less continuously for
reasons we have set out before.

They understand why stake money does not measure up – currency value. They have seen an effort to redress the shambles of naming that the present incumbents inherited. They have seen efforts to reduce the plethora of black type races.

The “model” of the brilliantly successful Japanese bloodstock industry is neither attainable (only 3.5% of races carry black type) nor workable (given a recent sales average of around 7 million rand in a fairly closed community), but more reforms are necessary.

In the meantime, a “clear out” amongst breeders (of mares and human participants) is going on. Brutally, that may not be a bad thing in the medium term, but it is painful on so many levels. Yet those of us – aside from the big battalions – who are sticking it out are being whacked over the head with at least a wet fish if not a piece of wood by fees and (the threat of) fines, not yet backed up by efficiency. Fines are an entirely new culture that has not been given a chance to bed in first.

Some fines have been waived (after the angst) – but not before they have been paid in some cases which has added a burden to NHA accounting. But the fine that leaps off the page is for late payment of the (new) requirement to register mares IN ADVANCE of the breeding season!

I am sorry to say that this deadline is daft (= unworkable and acts as a punishment) for two reasons: 

  1. The breeders who are not accountancy experts have no period of adjustment from decades of lax registration of mares at the time of registering their latest foals, and, WAY MORE IMPORTANTLY….
  1. Registering a mare every year (and as a breeder every year) is a peculiar SA activity itself with no basis in need (other than maybe raising cash, but cash should be raised on fees for actual transactions, not restatements of current fact that require unnecessary work and the constant creation of confusion due to inaccurate recording).

Here’s an example:

– Mare was not registered under the previous regime in 2018 (no foal – and at that time, there was no requirement to be registered in a covering season if not being bred);

– Same mare was not registered in 2019 for 2019 because she would be registered in 2020 along with the 2019 foal;

– Same mare must be registered for 2020 covering season before a September date (originally 15th July)  even though her 2019 foal is still not registered due to a backlog. So pay for 3 years all at once with several fines.

One has to ask: WHERE IS THE TBA?

And here’s why the requirement to pay in advance won’t work: *

(The following cases would be familiar to every breeder but not necessarily to every bureaucrat)

  • A mare who dies mid-season or is retired from breeding through injury or infirmity and is not covered. Money back with interest?
  • A filly in training who retires mid-season to go for cover. Pay a late payment fine? Contradiction in terms. Nobody knew she might breed.
  • A mare not getting in foal. Paid for no reason compared to historical requirement to pay only for when a foal is registered. Money for old rope?
  • Sudden demands for 2 years registrations, sometimes 3 years! As above. “It will all work in a couple of years”. No, it will not – see all these other points
  • If we develop a more liquid mare market which is our goal as a breeding industry, buyers will inherit confusions and conundrums on a regular basis

International breeding investors already run for cover when they find out about the various levies or the cost of selling and consigning, or being charged for foals at foot, so it makes that situation worse.

Annual mare registration has, for many years, generated enormous confusion and time spent unravelling it. The amount of money is not great (and is diminishing). It should be abolished.  -tt.

Should you feel as strongly about the demise of the annual mare registration as AllanBloodlines then please contact davidallan@allanbloodlines.com.

DAVID ALLAN is the proprietor of AllanBloodlines. He is a former Turf Talk columnist and presently has his own blog on Racing Minds.

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