Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Sunny October (so far)

Eight days between chapters.  That isn't good, particularly as I haven't been particularly busy.  When I last wrote, we had two trips to the races ahead of us.  Those two days both came and went uneventfully, Cottesloe at Nottingham and Roy at Brighton both running respectably both not spectacularly, finishing midfield.  My only outing since then was to Milton Keynes on Sunday for the Sunday Forum on ATR.  That too was straightforward.  It turned out that I shed very little light on that afternoon's racing at Chantilly, but that's not the end of the world as I don't think that I'm on the roster for the show because of my tipping skills.  (It is, of course, easier to pinpoint why I'm not on the roster than why I am on it).

So what's happening?  Well, very little, really.  The weather remains lovely.  We had one cold night (Monday into Tuesday, I think) which apparently gave us our first ground frost of the autumn, although by the time that I went outside around 6.00 the temperature was merely 4 degrees, and no ice crystals were evident.  A lovely day duly followed, as had been the case the previous day and has been the case today (Wednesday).  So that's straightforward.  I don't need to go anywhere this week, and next week I don't think that I'll be having to go anywhere until Saturday at the earliest - Hope is High is entered at Yarmouth on Monday, but I feel that she has possibly done enough for one year, and we might just send her on her holidays now, while the weather is nice, so that she can have a good break and still be back in training early enough to make a smart start next spring.  (Mice and men can both hope and plan, eh?).

Looking outside this stable, there are plenty of points which one might cover.  Money has been being thrown around at Tattersalls this week as if it were going out of fashion and as if prize money in Britain were ten times higher than it is, but that is of merely academic interest for 98% of the players in this great game, myself included.  It is no surprise to see that Sheikh Mohammed has been easily the biggest buyer because, after all, the supposedly big news story a couple of weeks ago that he was scaling back his operation was never going to fool anyone (bar the news editors gullible enough to waste column inches on it) and least of all me.

Another recent story which has been widely if not well covered has been the removal of the 60 or so Gigginstown Stud horses from Willie Mullins' stable.  The one surprise of this for me was the discovery that Willie Mullins' training fees have been as low as 50 euros a day for the past 10 years, and that they are now going up to merely 55 euros a day.  I would have expected them to be higher than that.  While these are higher than mine (£40 per day) they are very low by the standards of a very popular stable.  (Mine need to be low because this is not a popular stable).  Willie Mullins probably has been making a big profit in recent seasons (which is fair enough because, like Michael O'Leary, he is successful) but that will only have been because his percentage of the string's earnings will have been huge.  Take that away, and 50 euros a day won't have been making him rich.

I lose money on the training (I am lucky enough to be able to make a living from my other work which I can fit in an admittedly very full working life around the training, and I am also lucky enough to have the skills to do a lot of the physical work in the stable myself, which not every trainer can do and which obviously reduces my wage bill significantly) while the majority of trainers earn anything from a negative sum to a basic wage.  It is only a small minority who make a good living or more (a handful, of course, make millions) but in general the elite charge a lot more than Willie Mullins has been charging.

Basically, if an extremely wealthy man who clearly wishes to have horses with Willie Mullins ceases to patronise the stable because 55 euros a day is unacceptably high, then we're all bug**red.  Training horses is labour-intensive, and one needs to be charging a fairly high daily rate simply to be able to pay one's staff an acceptable wage.  As I say, I'm lucky in that I can fill a lot of the roles myself, and can afford to do so without pay because I earn my living from my other work, and am happy never to take a day off; consequently, I can charge less than Willie Mullins charges, and still make an acceptably small loss each year.

But Willie Mullins would need to charge what he charges to be able to pay his staff well.  We are always being told by the media how trainers should be paying their staff more, so I'm surprised that the implications of the Gigginstown Stud decision (ie that, as Gigginstown see things, a trainer charging enough to pay his staff well is unacceptable) have received no comment whatsoever from a press which has otherwise given this story more attention than it deserves.  Not overworking one's staff and paying them well is important (as any Racing Post reader will tell us) and when I digested the Gigginstown Stud / Willie Mullins news, what I took out of it was that one of the wealthiest and most significant owners in the British Isles seems unprepared to pay fees high enough to allow his trainer to pay his staff well without overworking them while making a good living himself.  And I find that worrying and depressing, even if the Racing Post finds that unremarkable.


neil kearns said...

I can fully understand where your coming from with the Mullins/Gigginstown argument until you do the maths 5 euro per hour times 60 horses is 300 euro which equates to over 100,000 euro per annum (assuming all 60 horse attract training fees 52 weeks a year - which I know they probably won't) it is only then that the significance of the increase becomes apparent . I can understand both sides of this one from the owner's point of view this is a significant cost increase and it is unlikely the extra money paid in fees will equate to extra monies won on track. That said your analysis amply shows the trainer (and staff's) problems in trying to make the thing pay - I think we all know the answer (prize money) but also know it just won't happen . There were some interesting pronouncements from Mr Mullins on prize money last term and one wonders if this was not part of the start of this split .

Brian Jones said...

Neil - don't give them ideas! - 5 euro per hour :O