Owners slam prize-money as 'desperate' after Hannon backlash
Winning owners at Windsor on Monday have criticised the levels of prize-money on offer at the track and others, saying that it keeps new owners out of the sport.
The fresh broadside comes after Richard Hannon insisted he would reduce his runners at the Berkshire course unless the situation improved, echoing the sentiment of fellow trainer William Haggas in his condemnation of prize-money on offer at Southwell, which is owned, like Windsor, by Arena Racing Company.
Harry Herbert, managing director of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing whose Commodity, a 190,000 guineas yearling, won the mile handicap, said: "It's desperately poor prize-money. You're always delighted to win a race, but when the first prize is about £2,900 added value and we're getting about 50 per cent of that, it's a sad state of affairs.
"I've just got back from Australia and we should be very envious of the systems over there. If you race over there on a Saturday in Victoria or New South Wales, you're racing for $100,000, minimum, per race."
Herbert added: "It's the same if you go anywhere abroad. The comments are coming thick and fast about how pitiful prize-money is in the UK. The money is always going up in these places and here it is static.
Speaking of the plight owners face, Herbert said: "Ownership is always getting more expensive. It's rare you get a year without training fees or vets' bills going up. Then you end up with the sort of situation we saw at Windsor on Monday and it causes a lot of frustration among those in the industry. There are a lot of people's livelihoods at stake and we want to encourage ownership, and both of those are difficult when you see things like that.
"Obviously we can stand there, puff out our chest and say we have the most competitive racing in the world, the most beautiful tracks and so on, but there's not a lot we can say about winning a race like that and the owners getting a net return of about £1,000."
Paul Coombe, manager at Chasemore Farm, owners of Captain Peacock who won the 1m3f handicap, said: "We picked up just over £2,500 for winning that race on Monday and that doesn't cover costs for the month. But what else can you do? Where else do you go? There's no other way to make money with a racehorse in training."
Chasemore Farm is owned by Betfair co-founder Andrew Black and Coombe added, echoing Herbert: "In Australia it's such a people's sport, everyone is involved in a horse, whereas we struggle to keep owner-breeders enthused here let alone get new people into it.
"We need to have a proper look at prize-money, but we keep going round in the same circles."
He concluded: "It's a shame that such a great industry and a great sport that we don't make it attractive enough to people outside. Any businessman who's looking in will be saying why do I want to buy racehorses, when we have to put in all those months of work to win one month's worth of training fees?"
Poor prize-money has been a recurring issue presented on the BHA's table and the organisation's head of media, Robin Mounsey, said on Wednesday: "Racing and funding at the grass roots level will has been identified as the priority area for the sport to address when the enhanced funding starts to flow from the imminent levy replacement."
All the races at Windsor were run at the minimum value based on levels introduced in April 2015 and negotiated by the Horsemen's Group, who want a further increase and for courses to stop staging cards where all the races are for the lowest allowable purse.