A stellar day of horse racing at Newbury on Saturday has been undermined by a trainer boycott, which saw zero entries made into the final race of the day.
The disgruntled handlers have come together en masse to agree to the action, which will see the card – which includes the Super Sprint Stakes, and which is expected to be a near sell-out – reduced to just six races.
Money, unsurprisingly, is the root cause of the frustration, with trainers furious that the fillies race would have a prize pot of just £6,500 – with little over half of that going to the winner.
Initially, 13 horses were entered not the 1m 2f closer, but after a number of trainers – including Ralph Beckett and Roger Varian – came together to express their rage at the miniscule earnings on offer, all were scratched and the race cancelled.
Confirming his involvement, Beckett said:
“Trainers have decided, it seems, that £3,500 for the winner of a novice at Newbury isn’t enough for them to run. It’s a Grade 1 track and it’s a Saturday afternoon.
“I decided to declare my horse to run elsewhere and presumably – I have no idea because trainers are independent creatures – they have decided to take the same view.”
And it seems that racehorse owners are also on board with a number of them speaking out – Craig Bennett warned ‘premier racecourses’ that think they can cut prize money on major cards are ‘badly mistaken’.
Julian Thick, Newbury’s chief executive, acknowledged the action of connections but reminded them that he has to run his racecourse in a ‘sustainable way’ way.
“It’s hard to imagine this isn’t a concerted action with a race that had 13 entries from ten stables receiving no declarations.”
It’s the first time in more than three years that a race has been boycotted, with the last occasion – at Lingfield in 2019 – also down to a lack of prize money in the view of trainers scheduled to be involved….it was suggested that Beckett was also the ringleader back then.
No Prizes for Guessing
The uninitiated might think that the trainers and owners involved are simply being petty, and that there’s still plenty of prize money to go around.
But it costs an estimated £2,000 per month to train a racecourse and keep them fed and sheltered, and given that they can only run a couple of times every 30 days or so at the most, it’s clear that some yards are in danger of taking a loss on some of their horses in training.
Newbury has long been held up as one of the worst offenders as far as prize money is concerned, and a Racing Post investigation revealed that their average pot for a Group/Listed winner at the track is just £41,986 – almost a quarter of that offered by Epsom, and with only Chester being more frugal as far as major racecourses are concerned.
Property development adjacent to Newbury Racecourse has seen more than 1,500 new homes built and a cool £33 million donated to track chiefs – but for all their facelifts and makeovers of the venue, the money is clearly yet to trickle down to the prizes on offer out on the grass.