Bad apples undermine British bloodstock

Australian bloodstock figures say the country’s thoroughbred sales industry is well governed, transparent and that there is no need for an overhaul of the sector despite their UK counterparts coming under the blowtorch due to alleged unscrupulous practices.

Earlier this week, a leaked British Horseracing Authority (BHA) report alleged that many UK participants had been victims of unethical behaviour including “improper inducements and payments.”

On Thursday, ANZ Bloodstock News followed up that news with a front-page story relaying the report’s author Justin Felice who found there were ‘bad apples’ who were undermining the British bloodstock sector.

Felice, a former top policeman, recommended the BHA be seen as the rightful regulator of the country’s bloodstock industry.

In reaction to the leaking of the extensive report, which also found the industry’s current code of practice was irrelevant due to a ‘code of silence’, Inglis managing director Mark Webster said the Australian bloodstock sector was already governed by a strict code that had been in place for the best part of a decade.

“What I will say from the leaked report is that there is a call for an industry code of conduct,” Webster told ANZ Bloodstock News journalist Tim Rowe. “Inglis and other industry participants took proactive action in this area in 2011, signing a Thoroughbred Sales Code of Conduct which has been well supported by all.

“Inglis is also a member of the Federation of Bloodstock Agents Australia (FBAA) which has its own code of ethics.”

The Thoroughbred Sales Code of Conduct says its aim is to ensure that sales of bloodstock that take place in Australia meet a high standard of integrity and transparency and the interests of vendors, purchasers, bloodstock agents, owners, and trainers in the bloodstock industry are protected.

Federation of Bloodstock Agents Australia (FBAA) president Grant Burns, the principal of Premium Bloodstock Services and an auctioneer for Magic Millions, said the country’s bloodstock industry was robust and operated under stringent codes that protected vendors and buyers.

“To use the auction sales as an example, we have really high clearance sales which means the market is being met,” Burns told ANZ Bloodstock News. “We have all gone to an auction and had one or two more bids than we could have, should have or would have, but the opposite also happens too, where you say, ‘Gee, I reckon I got that horse cheap or I bought that mare for under the odds’.

“It is a very clear and transparent way and the fact that we do trade so much into overseas jurisdictions and we have online auctions and the like, it shows that we have a healthy market and that it operates really well.”

Burns said the FBAA, which represents 29 member bloodstock agents, also operates under its own code of ethics and clients were permitted to make complaints if they were of the belief that something was not being dealt with appropriately.

“We are constantly trying to fly the flag for our association to encourage people to become members and operate under those codes and, as a rule, I think we have got a pretty good industry here. We are the envy of the world, from what I can see,” he said.

“We have a lot of syndication and they are heavily governed by ASIC. You don’t get a more stringent organisation than that and they also have to go through a principal racing authority (to register the product disclosure statement).

“From what I can see, we have got a pretty clean and tidy industry.”

In the UK the Felice-led review was commissioned in June 2017 after the BHA board became concerned by the “perception of unethical practices and experiences,” as it was described by the governing body’s chief executive Nick Rust.

"The review found the bloodstock industry was generally a safe environment in which to buy and sell bloodstock and the vast majority of industry participants appear to display high standards of integrity,” Felice wrote in the report.

"However, the interviewee feedback also revealed a widespread knowledge and acknowledgement of unethical practices being conducted with relative impunity in the bloodstock industry for many years, with a small number of unscrupulous individuals being identified repeatedly by different interviewees as people who pose a real risk to the integrity and reputation of the entire bloodstock industry."

Federation of Bloodstock Agents Australia (FBAA) was formed in 1988 to maintain, improve and develop the standards, status and services of bloodstock agents throughout Australia. Its members operate with the utmost integrity and professionalism and are bound by the strict Industry Code of Conduct.