The pattern: Q&A with John Messara

4 min read
John Messara weighs in on The Pattern and explains the importance of the industry's global language and the current state of play.

Cover image courtesy The Image Is Everything

The lack of evolution in The Pattern, along with perceived disregard for its principles in creating and placing new races, is a central concern. The Australian Pattern Advisory Group (APAG), tasked with advising the Australian Pattern Committee, has met infrequently since its inception, resulting in stagnation in pattern development since May 2018.

Despite notable industry innovations, Racing Australia's efforts to review The Pattern have been slow, with a promised strategic review in May 2020.

Renowned industry figure John Messara brings significant expertise to this realm, having previously held the position of Chairman of Racing Australia (RA). His appointment in May 2021 coincided with a period of prolonged inactivity within the board, raising hopes that he would act as a mediator to facilitate progress on critical issues, including The Racing Pattern.

John Messara | Image courtesy of The Image Is Everything

Unfortunately, that didn't eventuate with Messara exiting the role just a year into the term after he was unable to reconcile the differences between the major state bodies. Since then, The Racing Pattern has remained stagnant, leading to concerns about the potential long-term damage to the Australian racing brand.

The Thoroughbred Report recently spoke with John Messara to understand his latest thoughts on the topical issue.

TTR AusNZ: What is the pattern?

John Messara: The black type system (The Pattern) is the internationally accepted cataloguing standard that provides consistency and value to thoroughbred industry participants worldwide. The Pattern standardises the pedigree page and establishes the basis for determining global bloodstock values.

Prizemoney is important, but there should be a closer alignment of prizemoney with black-type status or thoroughbred racing in Australia may face becoming less respected internationally, again with consequential impact on owners.

Shangri La Express won the $1 million Golden Gift in 2023 | Image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

TTR AusNZ: What are your concerns regarding the current governance of the pattern in Australia?

JM: I am very concerned that our Pattern has been frozen for a number of years now and that there is effectively no Pattern committee applying Pattern guidelines to our program of major races. There are races in all jurisdictions that warrant upgrades or downgrades to maintain good quality and competitive racing and to uphold respect for Australian bloodstock internationally, but this cannot occur without an active Pattern committee and a set of current guidelines.

TTR AusNZ: What are the ramifications for the industry if the Pattern in Australia isn’t properly regulated?

JM: I believe that we are already losing our international standing in the sport, and the value of our racing and horses is being compromised. This may not worry those who bet on racing, but it is of great concern to those who invest millions of dollars to put the show on the track – black type lives forever in a pedigree, long after the prizemoney has been distributed and spent.

TTR AusNZ: What effects have pop-up style races had on the Pattern in Australia?

Think About It won the $20 million The Everest in 2023 | Image courtesy of The Image Is Everything

JM: While I share the belief that we need aspirational races, I believe that these can be structured to fit within The Pattern rather than compete with it. High prizemoney races with no black type will harm the existing Pattern and dilute the value of our Group 1 racing, the pinnacle of the sport worldwide. The two types of races can co-exist with a balanced approach and constant implementation and review conducted by a qualified Pattern committee. This can be achieved by applying a national approach with the goodwill of all parties.

TTR AusNZ: Should there be a restriction on prizemoney to encourage horses to compete in Pattern races?

JM: I don’t think there should be restrictions on prizemoney, however The Pattern guidelines would determine minimums for each black-type category. I think that if a jurisdiction goes too far on prizemoney for Pattern or innovation races, the rest of its racing program will suffer financially in relation to the general costs of ownership; this is already evident today.

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