Arena Racing reaches prize fund agreement

Horses in action at Lingfield

Racing industry leaders have reached a temporary agreement to maintain prize money at 2018 levels after further boycott threats.

Extra funds have been unlocked after criticism of prize money at Lingfield, owned by Arena Racing Company (ARC).

Trainer Ralph Beckett had called on his colleagues to boycott meetings at ARC tracks for three days next week.

“A common approach is the best way to respond,” said British Horseracing Authority chief Nick Rust.

“I’m pleased at the commitment from all to work together on this, which has to be in the long-term interests of the sport.

“We know there are difficult times ahead, and I believe we can achieve that over the next four weeks if we can maintain the spirit of the agreement we’re announcing today.”

Trainers and owners have been frustrated at the recent cuts to prize money at ARC tracks as the operator prepares for an expected shortfall in the levy it receives from betting takings because of shop closures following the government’s decision to lower the maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2.

The issue had led to one walkover and one race with no entries at all on Lingfield’s high-profile Winter Derby card last weekend.

With media rights income expected to shrink as a result of fewer shops, the unlocking of levy funds will allow prize money to be maintained at 2018 levels from 6-31 March.

Talks will continue between parties for a long-term solution to the issue.

An ARC spokesman said: “A coordinated boycott of races or fixtures does damage far beyond the racecourse, and will only serve to punish a large number of owners, trainers, jockeys and racing staff along with bookmakers, customers, sponsors, punters and broadcasters.

“Five fixtures lost to boycotts could unnecessarily see a loss to the industry of circa £300,000 in levy income alone. Racecourses require flexibility to invest in their race programme as appropriate, and the talks that are ongoing with horsemen, racecourses and BHA will allow that, hence our desire that agreement is reached without delay.”

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BBC Sport – Horse Racing

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