You have to live in the real world
Mike Deasy on the need to live in the real world when seeking financial support and clear thinking on prize-money
A week ago, these scribblings predicted a difficult PR journey for racing to get the sport back on the road. The same theme has since been echoed by Rob Wright in The Sunday Times and Bill Barber in the Racing Post.
It was significant therefore, that the BHA’s announcement that the suspension of racing would extend beyond the end of April did not have a target date of when the sport might resume.
It is pointless for anyone to publicly reveal dates as to when the coronavirus pandemic might get to the stage that elements of the lockdown can be eased. Everything is in the hands of scientific and governmental agreement that the number of new cases has plateaued and a sustained decline is in evidence.
It is, however, sensible to be planning a gradual return of the sport when that agreement is reached. The BHA’s statement communicated that effectively and was pretty much gaff free.
As well as wanting to get the sport back on the road, the BHA is obviously concerned at the financial hardship that racing’s individuals and businesses are experiencing. The fact that it involves living creatures which need uncompromised care is a factor that affects equine and canine sports.
Not unnaturally, it is seeking the government assistance for financial relief.
Unfortunately, a suggested scheme for owners to be able to offset income tax against losses made on horses in training is naïve at best.
Leaving aside that losses are the norm for the vast majority of horses in training, asking for assistance to help those who can afford racehorse ownership is laughable when set against those losing their jobs and, indeed, their lives because of coronavirus.
One assumes the Racehorse Owners Association has a hand in this. It is not an organisation I have a lot of time for, and has a track record of making the odd cock-up.
Its president is Nicholas Cooper (pictured) who has a column in Thoroughbred Owner Breeder magazine which the Association jointly owns with the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Federation.
I’ve been trying to get my head round his latest piece and, god knows, I’ve had the time to do it. Here, to the best of my ability, are the salient points he makes
- We have to protect the quality and heritage of our major races
- Allowing prize-money levels to deteriorate for major races would be to British racing’s peril
- A more pragmatic approach to setting minimum prize-money below Class 1 level should be considered for the benefit of many horsemen who operate at the domestic level or our sport
- Good horses and good races generate more betting turnover than moderate ones
- Paradoxically, moderate horses subsidise those further up the meritocracy scale
- Racing purists must be aghast at the idea of skimming money off higher tiers to put into lowly races and they would be right, unless it was done so that the very best races were protected
The article’s headline is “Protect the top while supporting grass-roots”. Perhaps “Have your cake and eat it” would also be apt.
I suppose I know or have known around a dozen or so owners who, between them, have had everything from Group 1 winners to animals of limited ability.
I don’t think I’ve heard any of them mention prize-money levels. They see racehorse ownership as part of their leisure spend, the amount depending on their disposable income, and as such it is for fun and hoping, as one or two have, of striking lucky.
Clearly, they would accept better prize-money, as I would London Irish having a world-beating first XV rugby side – but you need to be realistic.
♦ BHA’s statement of extending racing’s suspension http://wp.me/P8e3Dl-Mx
♦ Getting racing back on the road – a tricky PR journey http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3Km