Race is on to improve the lot of filly owners
Thoroughbred breeders might have all their fingers and toes crossed for a colt foal this season, but nature dictates that roughly half of the foals hitting the ground this year will be fillies. While National Hunt breeders might be disappointed to see a filly arriving, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (ITBA) is hoping to paint a more optimistic future for them.
A special session at this week's ITBA Expo in Leopardstown racecourse will be dedicated to examining how to improve the lot of filly owners.
The seminar, entitled 'What can the ITBA/National Hunt Committee do for Fillies?', is aimed at convincing trainers, breeders and buyers that fillies are a forgotten asset that can reap rewards.
As ITBA manager Shane O'Dwyer explains, fillies can and do win on the track.
"Last year, 1,627 fillies ran in 5,227 races and they won €4.165m in prize money," he says. "The statistics show that 36pc of mares raced collected prize money last year and 25 black-type races were won by fillies."
The successes of Unaccompanied, the Dermot Weld-trained four-year-old mare, in winning the Istabraq Festival Hurdle in December and the Willie Mullins-trained Quevega have flown the flag for the fairer sex in the past year, while the famous Dawn Run did more than her bit 26 years ago with her memorable Cheltenham Gold Cup victory. With some initiatives to promote fillies already in place, the ITBA manager hopes to use the discussion forum as a way of getting ideas from breeders, owners and trainers about how to promote more fillies in the industry.
"There are some initiatives already in place, such as the increase in weight allowance from 5lb to 7lb, and the fillies' leasing scheme and fillies' racing scheme," he says.
"Now what we want is to find out what's working, what can be improved and how to improve it."