Sir, - Irish National Hunt breeders are experiencing very difficult times due to a host of factors.

The dominance and success of French National Hunt-bred horses in both Ireland and England in recent years and the flight of Irish trainers and pinhookers to France to source their horses has made it almost impossible for Irish National Hunt breeders to survive.

This begs the question as to what are the factors that are favouring French breeding and harmful to Irish-bred horses?

One of these factors has been the very strong marketing over the years by the large commercial Irish studs farms to produce sales horses instead of racehorses. These sales results can be manipulated to give false values and very misleading information to breeders.

This does not appear to be the case with French breeders where a more balanced selection of sires by breeders is based on breeding to race.

Most of the horses being sourced by our top NH Irish trainers are coming from France, a practice which clearly puts our Irish-bred horses at a huge disadvantage. This continuous sourcing of French horses is creating a very damaging situation whereby it limits the potential for Irish-bred horses to get into top Irish and British training yards.

The result of this is that Irish-bred horses have far less opportunity to reach their potential (which may well be better than their French counterparts) because our top trainers are sourcing the majority their horses in France.

Many have argued that the French supremacy is due to the country’s earlier preparation of jump stock, compared with Ireland and Britain, and I totally concur with this.

The French-bred Triumph Hurdle hero Majborough was a winner at three over hurdles at Auteuil, four days before his third birthday.

Eleven of the 12 French-bred winners at Cheltenham this year first raced as three-year-olds, and six of the Grade 1 French-bred Cheltenham winners this year first raced as three-year-olds.

This early French racing system gives trainers an opportunity to source potential stars two years earlier than Irish pointers. Irish point-to-points continue to be a very successful source of top jumps horses but it is not adequate to satisfy the increasing demand by trainers for young horses to race earlier over shorter distances, hence the rush to France.

In my opinion, after months of discussions with numerous stakeholders in our industry, I would like to propose that we provide a series of races (hurdles and bumpers) confined to Irish-bred three- and four-year-olds, from a mile and a half to two miles. These races should also be confined to horses by stallions standing in Ireland at a stud fee of €7,000 or less (determined by the Foal Levy).

These races would immediately address a lot of our problems.

If 20 such races were provided, with up to 50% confined to mares in year one, I am confident that these races will attract full entries. They will appeal to a new type of owner-breeder and their horses are more likely to be trained by the smaller trainers.

These races for Irish-bred horses bred from a lower stallion fee will prevent the more expensive flat-bred horses from competing.

The above proposal will benefit and give opportunities to Irish National Hunt horses in a similar way to the French system.

These races will very likely provide many future National Hunt stars to fill our top Irish training establishments again with Irish-bred horses.

I believe that Horse Racing Ireland is considering a similar initiative and I would encourage them to proceed. Action is immediately required to prevent our National Hunt breeders and small trainers becoming extinct. - Yours etc.,

Dr Thomas P. Meagher MVB MRCVS

Veterinary Surgeon

Kedrah House Stud


Co Tipperary