Commercial opportunities are there for staying horses, insists Gosden
Trainer gives full backing to £1 million stayers features bonus
John Gosden believes breeding stayers is "not a dead end street" commercially and has called on the industry to do all it can to promote horses with stamina.
Speaking at the launch of the £1 million Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers' Million series at the Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket on Monday, Gosden welcomed the introduction of any initiative that would incentivise the breeding and ownership of staying horses, who he said have the ability to bring the attention of the general public to racing.
"We have to open our minds and to have our stayers promoted in every way possible, otherwise we will end up with pretty boring and one-dimensional racing," he said. "There is no doubt staying races capture the imagination and anything we can do, we must.
What is the WH Stayers' Million?
To win the £1 million bonus, a horse must start by winning any one of the following preliminary races:
- Longines Sagaro Stakes (Ascot, May 2)
- Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes (Chester, May 10)
- Yorkshire Cup (York, May 18)
- Matchbook Henry II Stakes (Sandown, May 24)
A victory in either of those races must then be followed with wins in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, the Qatar Goodwood Cup and the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup at York to bag the prize.
Gosden also challenged the notion that breeding staying horses is not as commercially viable as producing speedy juveniles and argued that there are plenty of opportunities for those who show talent over an extended trip.
"People say we mustn't forget that everything has to be commercial but there is a very, very strong market to Mr Willie Mullins and Mr Gordon Elliott and people who want to buy nice staying horses that go in the soft," said Gosden.
"And if you've got a lovely staying horse who goes on top, then the Australians will be knocking your door down, so it's not a dead end street, quite the opposite - there's a hell of a future for these horses."
'A very strange position'
Fellow Newmarket trainer Sir Mark Prescott echoed Gosden's views and said he hoped the Stayers' Million series could prove to be a springboard towards changing the mindset of owners and breeders when it comes to staying races.
"The best thing would be if people won the Guineas and the Derby, that they would want to let their horse run in the St Leger and let it stay, let it do what it wanted to do, instead of having to bring it back in trip for commercial reasons," said Prescott. "If that starts to happen, this would represent money well spent and everybody would be better off for it.
"The extraordinary thing about our game is if you ask most owners which race they would like to win, they'd say the Derby. If you said what would you like to win next, most of them would probably say the Gold Cup but if you suggest going to the sales and trying to buy one, they'll say 'not on your life'. It's a very strange position that we've got ourselves into but if these staying types are allowed to stay again, it'd be better for the horses, for us and for the public."
'It's going to take time'
Julian Richmond Watson, chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, is optimistic such a change can come but is realistic about how long that could take to happen.
"It's like turning a tanker around, it's going to be a long haul and will probably take ten years before we really see a serious improvement but we've got to work on the grass roots," he said.
"Initiatives like this are very exciting and catch the headlines but we are working very hard to produce bonuses for people running staying type horses. That is very important because if people are having to keep a horse in training for a whole extra year, when they do win staying races they need to win decent prizes. It's going to take time."
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