It’s fair to say that National Hunt racing is in a difficult place at the moment.
With the action still taking place behind closed doors, and with on-course betting revenue down, there has been a significant knock-on effect to the financial side of the sport.
As the costs of running a yard increase while prize money falls, owners and trainers are feeling the pinch and that was confirmed by the news that Trevor Hemmings, the three-time Grand National winning owner, will have to sell 50 of his horses – without a reserve price – at the Goffs auction in September.
The situation around the global health crisis of 2020 has exacerbated matters, with Hemmings owning a number of different businesses that have all been affected by the pandemic in their own way. But it is, perhaps, a sign of things to come as those with an ownership stake in the sport start to tighten their belts.
“Having had to furlough staff I could not, in all conscience, continue to race the same number of horses,” Hemmings reflected.
He has also spoken of some of the health issues that have prevented him from attending meetings during the coronavirus pandemic, and he was forced to miss the Cheltenham Festival earlier this year for the first time in decades.
“It has been a difficult decision but the reality is that I’m 85 years of age and a diabetic on insulin. Covid-19 has severely restricted my movements as I’m classed as high risk,” Hemmings said.
“Attending race meetings, even with limited attendance, would not be possible.”
Just three of the horses thought to be up for sale include Touch Kick, who has won a couple of Class 3 races and who appeared at Cheltenham in March; Mystical Clouds, who won a handicap chase last time out at Kempton, and Stoney Mountain, who landed a £57,000 pay day in a stayers’ handicap hurdle at Haydock Park in November.
Who is Trevor Hemmings?
With a diverse business empire in leisure and hospitality, Covid-19 was always going to hit Trevor Hemmings’ fortune hard.
Said to be worth around £850 million, the 85-year-old owns Preston North End FC, the club into which he pumped over £1 million as recently as June in an attempt to stave off the effects of coronavirus. Thanks to Hemmings’ intervention, Preston were able to pay all of their players, coaches and the majority of their staff in full, with only a handful of workers being placed on furlough.
Some of his other businesses, such as Classic Lodges and Trust Inns, have also been hit hard, and barely a decade ago Hemmings suffered a loss of a staggering £700 million because of a collapse in the share price of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
He has been something of a stalwart in National Hunt racing for a number of years, and he has tasted success on three separate occasions in the Grand National – with Hedgehunter in 2005, Ballabriggs in 2011 and Many Clouds in 2015.