Friday, 4 October 2013

The Rabble and The Apocalypse

I’m not sure whether there is a collective noun for racecourse managers – an ‘embarrassment’ perhaps, although I believe that applies to pandas. Apparently you can have a ‘chattering’ of choughs or a ‘rabble’ of butterflies, either of which might be quite good substitutes. 

On Tuesday this week, the Racecourse Association hosted its Northern Area meeting at York, attended by racecourse colleagues from the north of England and Scotland. High on our agenda was the topic of prize money and, in particular, recent negotiations with the Horsemen regarding an agreement as to how much money each racecourse should contribute towards the total prize fund. ‘Horsemen’, by the way, is the collective noun for a group of the industry’s stakeholders including racehorse owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys and stable-staff. Perhaps we could call them an 'apocalypse' (an apocalypse of jockeys?) – although negotiations aren’t going so badly as to signal the end of the racing world just yet. 

While most racehorse owners never suppose that they will make a profit from their racing activities, prize money oils the wheels that make the racing industry go round. It rewards the most successful horses, filtering through to everyone involved in preparing the participants – from racehorse trainers and stable staff to jockeys and their valets (who wash the silks, scrub breeches and clean tack at racecourses all over Britain).

The total prize fund in Britain this year is estimated to be approximately £110 Million. In round terms, 40% is sourced from off-course betting through the Levy Board, 15% from entry fees paid by owners and 45% from racecourses, some of which is paid by commercial sponsors who benefit from the affiliation with racing events. 

The problem with striking a prize money agreement is that one size doesn’t fit all. At Cartmel, we have historically received less central funding from the Levy Board than other tracks and our own contribution to prize money is more than 51% of the total prize fund. In our efforts to gain improved central funding, we don’t really want to be shackled to larger direct contributions – which would have a knock on effect on general maintenance and improvement projects at the racecourse.

The success of horseracing, especially when negotiating future deals with the off-course betting industry, depends on close collaboration between all factions of the sport. For this reason, I am certain that we shall be able to add Cartmel’s name to the list of racecourses, that have signed prize money agreements, in the very near future. Talks this week have been positive. 

In the meantime, for this week’s selection we are heading to France, where I’m trusting in Novellist to write his own headlines by winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Sunday.  

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