Welcome to my blog: And to start I want to say thank you to Emma Berry who wrote her last article for the Owner & Breeder in this month’s edition. Emma – you have been a constant source of inspiration, ideas and knowledge. Good luck for the future.
3 Key Parts
As racing jerks from one issue to another we must remember three areas that, in my view, must remain core for racing to survive:
Planning of the Race Program
As I have written before, there are issues around the race program which need to be addressed. In my earlier blogs I have written about prize money distribution and the lack of big fields. I am firmly of the belief that less racing will mean more income from betting. The BHA published figures show that the average number of runners in all races is 8.2 horses. That means therefore that roughly 50% of races are below that figure, and as such do not offer a 3 place each-way betting market – a key to income as we have seen with large handicaps even at the lowest levels; generating punter interest. Even Martin Cruddace of ARC agreed that 80% of rights and levy income is derived from Class 4-7 racing! Anyone in business will tell you that the big spender is always nice, but businesses survive on the regular, low level income provided by regular customers. Reduce the number of races by a small amount, think about the distribution and timing of those races, and the income from small bets will boost any loss due to volume of races and maybe even lessen some of the FOBT impact. – after all if the FOBT stake has reduced we could see some of that money diverted back to core betting.
2. Preservation of the Race Program
In planning the race program better, we must not allow the introduction of a two or three tier system. Whilst we may wish to see racing emulate football’s Premier League, we have a very different sport. Horses need to be nurtured and for two year olds this can mean a Class 5 maiden – which is a spring board to greater things. In my own case, a
horse I bred won just such a race and in so doing we were able to go to Royal Ascot and finish in the top half of the Windsor Castle Stakes a month later. Likewise many group winning horses came up through what we term as “lower grade” races, but are in fact the nursery for most horses and an invaluable tool in allowing all owners to dream of the big win. If we put up a barrier by introducing leagues or separate team competitions, that ability to dream will disappear and so might 80% of the owners and their horses. If the argument is that this action would encourage more sponsorship and interest then are we seriously saying that the current program of world renown racing cannot? After all it would be hard to find an improvement on Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot, Champions Day, York, Aintree, Goodwood & & ………. (need I go on?)
3. It’s not ALL about the winning!
We hear about the levels of prize money and, for sure, it is not sufficient. However, let us be serious for a moment and look at the facts. There are around 17000 horses in training, competing in around 6500 races. Even if there were a different winner for every race, over 10000 horses would never win sufficient prize money to cover their costs. Therefore, whilst it would be nice to think all owners were able to race for nothing, even if we were to increase prize money ten-fold, only the top three or four placed horses would earn any money. The others would still race for no return. It is a pipe-dream to think that we can run our sport as a profitable business as owners. It is therefore important to remember that the recent introduction of the extended prize fund down to 8th place is key. Whilst I agree that the prize fund levels at the ARC tracks (and some others) are woeful, it was the fact that in cutting the prize money, ARC also lost the unlock threshold that really should be concerning us. To be clear, a class 6 race at an ARC track has a prize fund of £3500 spread over 4 horses. By unlocking the additional fund (ie. increasing the racecourse generated minimum to £4400), the total prize fund becomes just short of £6600 – divided by eight horses! (Thanks to Nicholas Cooper from the ROA for the figures)
Based on the figures already mentioned, whilst we can never realistically hope to cover our costs for racing, it would go a long way if every race were able to pay every entrant (remember average race fields are 8.2 horses) the cost of the entrance fee, jockey, the transport and maybe even a pint at the races! We must fight not only to preserve this excellent incentive, but to extend it across the majority of the program.
Happy (hopefully soon) Racing everyone.