Saturday, April 07, 2018

Too much of a good thing?

The big news of the week is that we had two really nice days in a row.  Wednesday was very nice in the morning but rain (yet more of it) moved in during the afternoon (which had been forecast - through the morning it was almost impossible to believe that the forecast was going to be right, but right it turned out to be).  Thursday and Friday (yesterday), though, were both lovely.  Thursday was just divine, unbroken sunshine all day.  Yesterday wasn't quite so glorious but very nice anyway.  And it's warmer.  So spring does at last seem to be more or less here (if not farther north yet).  And today is pleasant too, if not sunny.

The big news stories aside from the weather have been the self-certificate suspension for a handful of trainers, and the million-pound Sky Bet Ebor and xxx Cesarewitch (sponsor as yet unsigned).  I don't know quite what to make of this second one.  In one sense I ought to be pleased as these are two races in which we might conceivably have a runner.  I've trained a Cesarewitch runner twice in the past (Il Principe, 8th of 29 under John Lowe in 1998; Il Principe, 11th of 32 under Neil Kennedy in 1999) and it is easy to see that happening at some point in the future.  And it is easy to see Hope Is High becoming an Ebor contender this year.  So I should be pleased that these races are going to be hugely valuable.

But I'm not really sure that I am.   My main criticism about prize money in Britain is that the gap between the highest-value races and the lowest-value races is far too big.  Making the prizes for these two races so huge doesn't do anything to tackle this issue; if anything, it exacerbates it.  The other criticism is that it will mean that it will cost a fortune to run in them, which will hugely lessen the chances of smaller connections taking part.  York have said that the entry fee for the £1,000,000 Sky Bet Ebor will only be 0.5% of the prize - but that's still £5,000, which is very stiff.  (And the implication of the statement was that, if the figure hadn't been 0.5%, it would have been higher).  (Presumably only those who make the final field will pay the full £5,000, but there will be many others paying a four-figure sum who are initially nominated but who don't make it through all the forfeit stages).

I had thought that it would be fair to assume that the figure for the £1,000,000 xxx Cesarewitch might be the same.  Apparently, it won't be: it will be 1.25%, so it will cost £12,500 to run in the race.  There's going to be a National Lottery-type bonanza for the connections of the winner which is good, but the downside will be that the connections of the 30 horses who don't finish in the first four will all be reflecting that they have paid a fortune to have an unproductive day out, with very possibly many or most of them reflecting that they have suffered for their honesty in that they have been beaten by an inferior horse who has merely been campaigned less openly and is thus better handicapped.  I'm not sure that that will be doing much to increase the sum of human happiness.

It is fair to assume that a hefty chunk of the million pounds will be provided by owners' entry fees.  For the £1,000,000 xxx Cesarewitch, one could see the best part of £500,000 coming from entry fees.  I feel that an £500,000 xxx Cesarewitch with a much smaller entry fee might be a more satisfactory move.  Two other titbits for thought on the subject.  Firstly the Gold Cup is currently worth £500,000, half the value which the xxx Cesarewitch will boast. Does this make sense?  Hard to argue that it does.  Secondly, if a horse has already reached a point in the ratings' list when he seems sure to get a run in the xxx Cesarewitch, do you think his connections will be trying to win his lead-up race worth, say, 1% or 2% of that value if doing so would secure him, say, a 6lb penalty for his real target?  I don't, either.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

fair point but we do need to have one or two handicaps with big prize money (particularly when so many group and listed races are so badly supported in both codes) and these two races are often far stronger than most group 3 races certainly and several group 2's perhaps the answer would be to have some handicaps in the official pattern and given group one two or three status and the black type breeding ramifications
Frankly there needs to be a top down rethink as to the whole funding of races if the top races carry sufficient prestige to be able to get very large sums in commercial sponsorship then no extra money should be added to those races (and I would allow sponsorship of every race at Royal Ascot) and those large sums can be spread through the remainder of the race structure at the moment this will become an incredibly elite sport in a very short period of time if the authorities are not careful because as you correctly point out a 5000 entry fee (and above) will put off all but the richest owners from entering a handicap which is totally contrary to the whole point of having handicaps (as I understand it)
Perhaps the answer is to eliminate entry fees from these mega handicaps completely (say any handicap with a value over 500000) and let them ride solely on the amount the backers (commercial/racecourse and authorities) want to put in them frankly winning a million or half a million in the great scheme of things will not deter people from running in these great races