As the sporting blackout continues, UK and Irish horse racing is starting to feel the pinch.
No betting revenue and no prize money is hurting everyone within the sport, while many jockeys and stable staff have been furloughed under the government’s Job Retention Scheme. And so the £22 million grant offered by the Horseracing Betting Levy Board and the Racing Foundation could not be more appropriately timed.
The financial support package will be handed out to a number of organisations, including the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA), the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF) and the National Trainers Federation (NTF), to keep them ticking over until racing returns.
More than £2 million will be designated for the Racing Relief Fund, a new concept that will ensure horses that can no longer be looked after by cash-poor trainers will be kept safe and secure.
For now at least, there is no update as to when racing may return, although the chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority has confirmed that the sport will be ready to go when the time is right.
Nick Rust told the Luck on Sunday programme:
“We’ll be ready to return at short notice when it’s safe to do so, but we need to be careful about how we manage the messaging to the government and the public.
“If we show we’re looking to go ahead of a reasonable position then that would attract significant criticism. We have to bear that in mind. We’re balancing on a knife-edge to ensure we can return as quickly as possible while keeping the government and the public onside.”
More than £13 million of the fund will be given to racecourses, where revenue has hit zero, and some of the payment will be used to ensure tracks are safe for when the sport is given the green light to resume.
The RCA chief executive, David Armstrong, said:
“Our members’ big festivals and major races are among the most popular events in sport, and we know the public is missing them badly.
“But smaller, often rural, courses are just as important a part of the industry. Their revenues from racing are zero right now and significant fixed costs continue, so we are grateful for the support in this package.”
Robinson Bites Back On Behalf of Fellow Owners
While most would agree with how the £22 million fund is being used, not everyone believes that the money is being utilised in the most effective way.
The prominent owner David Robinson, who has saddled the likes of Simply Ned and Duke of Navan in the past, has said he may have to reconsider keeping his 12-horse yard if owners continue to be overlooked by rescue payments – a situation he describes as ‘staggering’.
“I have reviewed the package and what is staggering is that owners are barely mentioned,” Robinson said.
“Owners face suffering paying bills for many months with no prospect of racing or any financial return. They are even unable to visit the yards and see their horses, and when racing resumes are unlikely to be present when their horse runs.”
“This recent episode highlights the disregard owners are held in by the racing hierarchy, and sums up why racing is in such a dire state in this country.”