The decimation of racing at the hands of coronavirus continues at pace with QIPCO British Champions Day the latest meeting to be hit.
The prize money fund has been slashed by a whopping 40% for October’s flagship meeting, which in real terms means a reduction from £4.2 million last year to £2.5 million in 2020.
The festival, which brings together all of the finest horses from flat racing’s various disciplines, is the much-awaited finale to the campaign, but this year’s event will be hit hard by taking place behind closed doors.
This will be the tenth edition of British Champions Day, a new but much-loved event that has taken top spot as far as the most lucrative days in domestic racing are concerned. But falling revenue this year, with punters barred from trackside under the government’s coronavirus protocol, has been passed on to the business end of the event.
The chief executive of the British Champions Series, Rod Street, said:
“We are pleased to be able to stage a card worth £2.5 million on Qipco British Champions Day, despite our income streams being so negatively affected and the enormous challenges facing the sport.”
On September 1, the deadline for entries will pass and we will know who will battle it out for the still-generous prize money.
The Champions Stakes Amongst Hardest Hit
The Champion Stakes, one of the most prestigious races in the calendar, retains its position as the most valuable renewal in Britain. But in reality, its prize kitty is down from £1.3 million to £750,000 – the hope is that won’t prevent the big trainers and owners sending their horses down to Ascot for the meeting on Saturday October 17.
But that decrease in prize money is minimal compared to some of flat racing’s other crown jewels this season, with the King George and Elizabeth Stakes – one of the future races at Royal Ascot – seeing a huge £850,000 drop from £1.25 million to £400k.
The pot for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes has been halved practically, with a downturn from £1.1 million to £650,000, and the kitty for the Balmoral Cup has fallen more than 50% from £250,000 to £100,000.
Two of the day’s most eagerly anticipated races – the Champions Sprint and the Long Distance Cup – have seen their prize fund drop by £300,000 and £350,000 respectively.
The key thing to note is that these are still some of the richest races in UK racing, and they far outstrip the £150,000 minimum put into place by the BHA to protect the integrity of Group One renewals held between September and December 2020.
They acted after criticism from many owners within the sport, with Richard Wayman – the chief operating officer of the BHA – stating: “As we enter the autumn and racehorse owners begin to make their plans for 2021, this increase in minimum prize money levels across all levels from September is a critical part of the sport’s recovery plans.
“Owners have displayed great patience in recent months and it is crucial that prize money grows at all levels as quickly as possible.
“Whilst there is a long way to go, the increase in minimum values together with the re-introduction of the appearance money scheme are clearly steps in the right direction.”