British EBF Veterinary Research Support tops £1.25 million

Wed 22 Apr 2020


Recent veterinary research has been into alternative worming methods in youngstock

Recent veterinary research has been into alternative worming methods in young-stock

THE British European Breeders’ Fund (BEBF) is acknowledged as one of the most important contributors to racing’s prize money; with a total of £36,000,000 distributed over nearly 4 decades of existence. What may go unnoticed however, is our consistent support of veterinary research and, more recently, increased community engagement within racing. Over the next two weeks, we will be show-casing our work in both these areas.

To date, the British EBF has directly funded over £1,250,000 of equine veterinary research projects, in addition to our prize money allocations. More recently, the trustees have also lent regular support to both Racing Welfare and Racing to School (both official partners). Although the fund is precluded from making financial charitable donations, these unique partnerships mean the we can provide support in other ways.

Since 2000, the British EBF has wholly or partly funded veterinary research covering subjects as diverse as the Equine Genome Project and the identification of virulence factors associated with Rhodococcus. In recent years, the focus has been on research specifically relating to the breeding industry and has covered areas such as the effects of light and temperature on delayed ovulation and an extensive study in to potential alternatives to traditional parasite control in thoroughbred mares and young-stock.

Mindful of the challenges that modern Thoroughbred racing and breeding brings, in 2003, the trustees set up a contingency fund of £50,000 to finance research in the initial stages of an equine disease outbreak in GB.  The fund is ring-fenced and organisations requiring immediate help to combat a disease outbreak in the thoroughbred population are eligible apply.

Historically, annual grants were awarded to the Animal Health Trust (AHT), helping purchase vital equipment such as an MRI scanner and funding investigations into various areas of equine viral research.

Latterly, a significant amount of BEBF funding was utilised by the Bacteriology Department of the AHT in a ground-breaking project into Strangles (Equine Distemper).  Over 5 years from 2009, the department worked on a paper entitled “Breaking the Strangles Hold” with research leading to the decoding of the genome of the bacterium, Streptococcus Equi, that causes the disease. The team were able to develop an Elisa blood test to detect the presence of Strangles. Over 7,000 samples were tested in its first 6 years; vastly reducing the spread and incidence of the disease by providing a means of testing horses prior to movement between geographical sites, thereby reducing infection rates.

In 2013 the British EBF joined the Levy Board and Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (TBA), establishing a co-ordinated approach to funding veterinary research via a Small Grants Scheme. Each year, a selection of research projects is put forward for consideration for the organisations to fund either jointly or independently.  This collaboration is an example of how the British EBF has been increasing its racing industry engagement.

From this combined approach, a three-year research project has been undertaken by Dr Laura Peachey at the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge. The study investigates host – parasite interactions in horses to inform potential alternative treatments of parasitic infections to reduce the current reliance on chemical treatment, for example traditional worm pastes and powders.  This investigation was brought to a close in 2019 and work is underway to assess the available projects for 2020 and beyond.