Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The £520 Million Jockey Tax

Shares in Ladbrokes surged nearly 8% at around 1.45pm on Wednesday. I have a strong suspicion that it might have had something to do with the first leg of my life-changing 'Lucky-15'  - which went down with Yanworth, in the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle. But, just for now, I’m going to give the credit to George Osborne.

Now, I’m not suggesting that George Osborne backed Yanworth, although I’m sure he was tempted – what easier way to get the economy back on track than to whack a few billion on an even money favourite. To put a smaller amount on a Willie Mullins accumulator perhaps? To bet the remote gambling tax on Pena Dorada in the Foxhunters on Friday? Or to stick with our weekend selection: the Jimmy Moffatt trained Altruism, in Newcastle’s novice hurdle on Saturday.

But when it came to Wednesday’s budget announcement, the Chancellor gave Ladbrokes a break – there were no further announcements about tax on fixed odds betting terminals – and instead he imposed a £520 million tax on jockeys. At least I think the soft drink sugar tax is aimed at jockeys: the mountain of empty Lucozade bottles left in the changing room after a day’s racing would suggest that they are the country’s most prolific drinkers of sugary drinks. 

It should be noted that it is the racecourses that purchase the drinks in the Jockeys’ changing area, so technically this is a tax on racecourses. But no matter; perhaps we’ll end up with healthier jockeys with better teeth. Either that, or we’ll substitute the Lucozade for cider (on which duty has been frozen) and we won’t have any jockeys at all because they’ll all fail their drug tests. 

The money raised from the new tax is going to be given to schools, which probably means that our children will grow up being too sensible to get on the back of a horse and race at 30mph over obstacles – which will be a problem for the industry in the future. We’ll have to recruit athletes from other sports, like cycling, to compete in their place. Oh – it seems that’s already started.

In other budget news, the Chancellor announced that he will allocate £700m to flood defence schemes – including those in York, Carlisle and across Cumbria, which means that the 'Going Description' at York, Carlisle and Cartmel is guaranteed to be ‘Good’ of faster from 2017 onwards. He also earmarked £230 million for road improvements in the north of England, so getting to Cartmel will become quicker and easier.

So that’s the budget in a nutshell: relief for bookmakers, better teeth for jockeys and a grand display of Cumbrian Altruism (who the Chancellor is sure to back at a good price).

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