Arc delays decision on BHA target of £6,000 minimum race value
Arena Racing Company said it hoped to unlock as much of the additional funding being targeted at the sport's grassroots next season as possible, but could not confirm its race values until there was clarity on funding later this year.
As revealed by the Racing Post on Monday, the BHA has said that £9.7 million of levy funding is to be focused on the lower tiers of the sport with the hope that most races will be run for a minimum of £6,000.
Courses that put in additional prize-money of their own will unlock extra central funding, including an appearance money scheme offering at least £300 for horses finishing fifth to eighth.
Arc's reputation for prize-money has improved in recent years, although levels in some cases were criticised by trainers Richard Hannon and William Haggas in the spring.
Arc racing director Jon Pullin said the group was pleased it had been able to help in enabling the week-long break in jump racing at the end of the 2017-18 season, as well as hosting twilight fixtures in new time slots "which reflects the trends in the modern betting market which is vital to the future growth of the sport".
He added: "The boost to prize-money being brought about by the levy reform is equally welcome, and something Arc was at the heart of helping achieve with other stakeholders in the sport."
However, he added: "While it is hoped that as many races as possible will unlock the additional incentive payments and appearance money, until all funding is confirmed in September racecourses will not be in a position to confirm final race values.
"Arc has consistently voiced the need to support horsemen at the grassroots of the sport. We support additional funds being targeted at this area and look forward to working with horsemen in delivering the increased field sizes this additional prize-money is specifically designed to encourage."
Funding to be made available
It is understood the Jockey Club intends to unlock all the funding available.
Britain's large independent course group comprising Ascot, Ayr, Chester, Goodwood, Newbury and York said that while they supported the focus on the grassroots they asked for the top of racing's pyramid not to be neglected.
The group's secretary-general Charles Barnett said it provided the shop window and motivation for international investment in bloodstock.
"Top-end prize-money isn't truly competitive globally in the UK," he said.
"The large independents, and indeed group and grade one courses generally, have spent many years plugging the gaps in central levy shortfall and, indeed, making significant prize-money increases against that backdrop. This arguably isn't generally recognised.
"We're now effectively taking a back seat in terms of benefiting directly in prize-money terms from the new funds."
The 2018 fixture list will have a record 1,508 fixtures, which National Association of Stable Staff chief executive George McGrath said was "not particularly welcome".
He added: "We've reluctantly gone along with the additional fixtures for the benefit of the industry and hopefully we'll see our members gain some reward for it down the line."
McGrath did welcome the focus on grassroots racing, adding: "For that we're very grateful and hopefully it will all pan out and we'll be in a better place a few years down the road."
Racehorse Owners Association chief executive Charlie Liverton welcomed the new fixture list, describing the consultation process between stakeholders as "really constructive and positive".
"However," he added, "I think we need to be slightly concerned about the increase in all-weather fixtures as a percentage of the total over the last five years. That's got to level out.
"All-weather racing definitely has its place, but we need to have some sensible discussions as to how much of the fixture list it should comprise."