Prize funds are a bone of contention
Last season, the prize money at certain graded horse-race meetings in Britain became a rather large bone of contention amongst the owners, trainers, and jockeys, with a number of them letting their feelings be known to the powers that delegate what amount of money are allocated, with better funds going to the upmarket meetings like Ascot, Sandown, Newbury, and the like. The funds that went into the share of the so-called lesser meetings consequently grew less and less, until eventually it became almost impossible for owners and trainers to support them, for the money that was available in prize money barely covered their expenses for the day's racing.
In like manner, for the jockeys, who receive 10 per cent of any winning prize money, their commitment and effort was, for the most part, not really worth their while. That this situation was allowed to go on is tantamount to the authorities totally ignoring the opinions and welfare of the people at the coal-face of the game.
This kick-back has been simmering for a long time now, but the first signs of a major upheaval came on Wednesday night last week at Worcester racecourse, when a group of Britain's leading national hunt trainers, frustrated at the continuing low level of the prize money on offer, decided to take a firm stand.
They concentrated their attention on one of the races where the tariff fell below what was already agreed between the Racecourses Executive and the Horsemen's Group. The total prize fund of the race, being run at 9.10, fell £900 short of the minimum of the £3,900 already allowed for a race of its stature. The trainers had originally planned a boycott of the race, which meant that the track would have retained the entire prize money, so they had to come up with a different approach.
Between the group, they wisely decided to declare 12 horses in all for the race, and then withdrew 11 of them, which left just one standing, the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained horse Moulin de la Croix, effectively turning the race into a walk-over, thereby winning the total prize money at stake. The trainers involved then divided this money between themselves to pay the inevitable fines incurred, and donated what was left to the Injured Jockeys Fund.
This latest protest could be just the thin end of the wedge as to what will be likely to happen not too far down the road, for one cannot really blame those trainers for taking decisive action to protect their livelihoods, for, it is fairly obvious that if the prize money remains at its current level, it is possible that a very large percentage of the present owners in Britain may decide to move some of their horses to either Ireland or France, where the position regarding prize money seems to be in a much healthier condition. This move by the national hunt people is almost certain to be followed by some radical action from their flat racing brethren, sooner rather than later, for it is imperative that this whole matter is sorted out, before it turns into what is something like an all-out strike, which indeed would totally disrupt the racing calendar up and down the whole of Great Britain.
Recently, weatherwise, the main question has to be where is all the rain coming from. Well, wherever, and whatever, it's really playing havoc with racing programmes all over the two islands. This weekend we have the King George meeting at Ascot, and are hoping for the best where the runners are concerned.
We begin on Friday with a Maiden Race, in which Fallon may be successful with Nargys, with Arbaah the likely danger in an interesting field. In the Novice Stakes, Godolphin may provide the answer with Snowboarder, who was taken out of a good race last week, with the Hannon horse, Havana Gold, taken to follow him home. The Finance H/Cap should go to the in-form Purification, with Montaser giving him most to worry about. On Saturday, we start with the Winkfield Stakes, in which Aidan O'Brien can make a winning start with Lines of Battle, with Toronado a very potent danger. In the Summer Stakes, which should provide another winner for John Gosden in the shape of Questioning, with Carlton House likely to be close behind. The big race of the day, the "King George" could be another O'Brien triumph with St Nicholas Abbey, although the recent winner Sea Moon won't be seen off lightly. All in all, a really terrific Ascot meeting.
The Selection Box.
Fri:- Asc:- 2-10--Nargys, 2-45--Snowboarder, 3-20--Purification.
Sat:-Asc:- 2-10--Lines of Battle, 2-45--Questioning, 4-35-St. Nicholas Abbey.