Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The greater good

Gosh, Ascot continues to hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.  Having shown that it isn't that keen on the bigger picture when it comes to towing the line as regards the BHA's preferred approach to sponsorship of races by non-ABPs, it has again ruffled a few feathers by making it clear that it is not one of the many people who believe that the prize money gap between the higher and lower tiers (which is already considerably greater in Britain than in just about any other racing jurisdiction) should be reduced rather than increased.

It is an ongoing problem for British racing that it is becoming ever more expensive to own horses, and this problem is seeing an ongoing erosion of the domestic ownership base.  Happily, we have a handful of major international billionaires who prop the show up, but there is a strong body of opinion which says that we shouldn't be letting ourselves get ever more dependent on them or bending over ever farther backwards to organise things around them at the expense of the run-of-the-mill domestic owner.

The point - that what we should be doing is trying to bolster the prize money at the middle and lower levels rather than making those levels fall ever farther behind the top levels - was perfectly made by long-standing owner and Jockey Club member Bobby McAlpine in a letter in yesterday's Racing Post.  The main thrust of the letter was that the switch of TV coverage from C4 to ITV has come about because ITV will pay more, which leads us on to the question of "... where is the extra money going?  Hopefully a large chunk of it will go to the lower end of prize-money, whch is currently abysmal."

So that letter was in the Racing Post yesterday morning.  And the rest of the day?  Well, the main story to break in the morning was the fact that prize money at Royal Ascot this year will be £1,000,000 more than it was last year.  We had a similar thing a year or so ago when the Qataris gave Goodwood a massive sum of money - several million over a few years - and the racecourse put it all towards the prize money at its principal meeting, Glorious Goodwood (or the Qatar Goodwood Festival, as it is now known) rather than put some of it towards that meeting and some towards its other races.

This gives an appalling message, and Ascot has done the same.  In Ascot's defence, it puts up good prize money at every meeting, for every race which it stages.  But, even so, it's hard to greet the announcement with anything other than despair.  I know that it's unrealistic to suggest that Ascot, if it is making so much money that it is in a position to throw this extra million towards the royal meeting, could instead be giving the million to other courses to put towards their prizes.  That would be asking it to surrender a lot towards the general good - but, at the same, it would be easier to sympathetic to its justifiable disinclination to work for the general good had it not opted to oppose the BHA's stance on ABPs, a stance yesterday's announcement suggests that it can easily afford to support.

To move on to my favourite topic, we've had some nice weather and we've had some really lousy weather.  Last Thursday was a very wet day - well, a very wet morning anyway - and yesterday (Monday) we had a few more horrible hours in the first half of the morning too.  But it's been nice at other times, as these photographs show.  It's supposed to be getting colder, but that'll be fine if it means that we don't get any more rain for a while, as we're current saturated.  What would also be fine would be if we could manage to find a winner.  We've got two runners this week, both at Chelmsford: Cottesloe tomorrow and Koreen on Thursday.  I rode them both, one after the other, on Sunday and Cottesloe seemed the more impressive, but that ought to go without saying as he's running in a Class Four race and Koreen is set to contest a Class Six over the same distance. Whatever, I think and hope that both will run very well.


neil kearns said...

question to Ascot management when (not if) the foreign billionaires start racing in their own back yards who is going to run in your prestigous races ?
and on a slightly related matter when are the trainers who complain about poor prize money going to enter horses for a/w races with no worse than normal prize money in January and December - the last two weeks cards have been so undersubscribed as to make the elitist attitude of places like Ascot seem almost understandable ?

David Winter said...

Yes Neil, i was wondering the same thing with regard to undersubscribed races lately. John will no doubt have a view on that, but i guess that with so many yards with that type of animal in sharp decline, there may not be enough horses to fulfill the racecards. So, we are back to the beginning of the circle and the pathetic prize money issue.