RCA insists tracks face real financial challenges in wake of prize-money boycott
On the eve of the trainers' boycott at Lingfield, the Racecourse Association has urged all parties to "seek positive resolution as quickly as possible" as ongoing talks about prize-money reached crisis point.
Arena Racing Company's decision to cut prize-money contributions by £3 million this year in response to the government's crackdown on FOBT stakes has begun to bite at the group's courses, including on Saturday at Lingfield, where trainers have forced one race to be scrapped and another to become a walkover.
A spokesman for the RCA said on Friday: "After many years of being able to improve their executive contribution to prize-money substantially, racecourses are now facing significant financial challenges.
"At the end of January, we put forward a proposal, with the full support of our board, to deal with these challenges and to mitigate their potential impact on prize-money, for the benefit of horsemen.
"There are constructive ongoing discussions with the BHA and horsemen around this proposal and we would encourage all parties to continue to seek positive resolution through that process as quickly as possible."
The Racehorse Owners Association believes racing's grassroots will bear the brunt of the pressure on finances as not only is there a £3m reduction from Arc, but that money would have been used to 'unlock' additional levy funds amounting to around £4.5m.
ROA chief executive Charlie Liverton said: "It's quite clear that owners and trainers are angered and disappointed by Arc's decision to remove the funding for the unlocking of the appearance money scheme, which was devised to support and direct funds straight to middle and lower-tier racing.
"By doing so they have financially impacted the grassroots of British racing at a time when it is under already considerable strain. As a direct result of this decision we are losing – and continue to lose – both horses in training and owners from our sport."
Liverton added: "The impact of the FOBT decision over the coming months and years is going to have an impact on racecourse income from the media rights deals. In turn, this will have an effect on prize-money, and we're aware of the consequences.
"However, media rights is not the only income stream racecourses have and discussions need to incorporate all raceday income. Racecourses need to be profitable to support a thriving industry, but not to the detriment of owners and prize-money.”
Reigning champion trainer John Gosden has runners across racing's spectrum, including in grassroots races at Arc tracks, and White Coat, who he trains for Cheveley Park Stud, was one of the horses not declared for the Lingfield race that became a walkover.
Gosden said: "The prize-money cuts seem a bit premature given that the FOBT reduction isn't until April 1, and I totally understand the action that's being taken. You're not going to travel hundreds of miles just to run for junk money, and it could be that the number of fixtures needs reducing."
Sam Hoskins runs the Hot To Trot syndicate, who chose not to run Lollipop Lady in the same contest at Lingfield.
He said: "Poor prize-money means the smaller people in the industry are taking a big hit, whether it be an owner or trainer, or the stable lads and lasses who receive pool money.
"For people in the yard, reduced prize-money can change what they get at Christmas in their package, and whether the owners can give them a good bonus.
"Unless something is done the grassroots of our sport will really struggle, and the bigger owners will just get bigger. I really hope something can be resolved as owners and syndicates can really help racing and racecourses."
Marco Botti, who like Gosden trains in Newmarket, added: “If we don't stick together the future is pretty dark, and we need to protect the interests of our owners. If tracks aren't going to increase, or even maintain, prize-money, I think the number of fixtures needs looking at."
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