Mann: ‘The boycotts will continue’
Wednesday 11 July 2012
Trainer Charlie Mann insists this evening's walkover at Worcester will be the first of many unless prize money levels in racing improve.
Moulin De La Croix is due to complete the walkover in this evening's partex-direct.co.uk Novices' Hurdle after 11 of the 12 runners were taken out of the race due to a trainers' boycott.
The contest falls below the level set out in the Horsemen's Group tariff by £900 yet, after being warned of possible action, the course has not altered the total.
The movement was organised by Mann and has the backing of the likes of Nicky Henderson, David Pipe and Donald McCain.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Moulin De La Croix is now set to take to the racecourse alone, so the prize-money can be collected and distributed between trainers who will face inevitable fines.
Twiston-Davies said: "I am in agreement with the rest of the trainers. Our mare will 'run' as we don't want to leave the racecourse with the money."
Mann added: "The tariffs have been set and it's unacceptable that we're racing for the prize-money that we are.
"Racecourses' turnover was up last year and this year and bookmakers are making profits.
"We're providing a product for these companies and we're not getting any return, which is wrong.
"They have to understand that without us, owners and trainers, they can't perform."
This evening's concluding event at Worcester was a particularly high-class National Hunt contest for the time of year, which Mann revealed is not a coincidence.
"We picked this race as it's under tariff and it's a novice race, which are easier to control than other races as we can put horses in that are good enough to keep other horses out," he said.
"It will happen again next week and the week after as far as I'm concerned. Until we get this prize money up, this is going to happen.
"We told the racecourse last week we were going to boycott this race. All they had to do was put up another £900.
"The only reason this race isn't being run is down to Worcester racecourse and Arena Leisure.
"We gave them plenty of warning. We did this at Fontwell three weeks ago, they put the tariff up and we didn't take this action.
"Eleven horses have come out and the reason we're leaving one in is because we want to take £3,000 from Arena Leisure.
"That will pay for the fines that are going to be imposed on the trainers that don't run and the rest of the money will go to the Injured Jockeys' Fund," he added, in an interview with At The Races.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls waded into the debate on Twitter, writing: "Worcester & Northern racing got what was coming to them re the last race this eve. Shameful prize money."
Stuck in the middle of the dispute are the race sponsors, partex-direct.co.uk, who specialise in cable identification systems.
Managing director Peter Symonds admits he is hugely disappointed by the movement, having only originally sponsored the race for charity.
A number of members of staff are due to spend the evening at Worcester and he feels it unfair that the race they sponsor has been targeted.
Symonds said: "We're obviously very disappointed as a small company.
"This is a sponsorship we undertake every year. We bring a number of staff to the track - there are 15 people coming tonight.
"We're booked into the restaurant and we make a good evening of it and it's very disturbing for us that we no longer really have a race to sponsor.
"Part and parcel of the evening is our race. We probably wouldn't go to Worcester on a Wednesday evening if we didn't have this race to sponsor.
"I don't think we gain an awful lot of benefit from our sponsorship of the race.
"We did it originally as a charity thing. I'm involved in greyhound racing and there was an auction for sponsoring this race for three years and each year I paid the money that went to the Retired Greyhound Fund.
"That charity event is no longer held, so for the last couple of years I've carried on the sponsorship and done it direct with the racecourse.
"I'm very disappointed as the race was full of trainers at the top of their profession.
"There are hundreds of races during the year that are run below tariff that carry bookmakers names and things like this, they could have picked something like that."
Symonds has revealed that had the racecourse asked him to put up the extra money in order to bring the race up to tariff, he would have considered it.
He said: "The race is £900 below the tariff level and we might have considered that, but it's too late now.
"We don't make a huge contribution to the prize-money. We only pay for the benefit of having our name against this race."
Worcester is owned by the recently amalgamated Arena and Northern Racing Group and Ian Renton, director of the new company, told The Times: "It is disappointing that trainers have targeted such a well-meaning course which is doing all it can in the circumstances.
"Since the downgrading of the levy in 2009, Worcester has suffered a 60% reduction in daily contributions.
"We have put virtually all our income into prize money and we aim to meet the tariffs in all races next year."
Philip Hobbs, the next president of the National Trainers' Federation, admitted to being "uncomfortable" with the action but that it was a last resort.
His horse, Princely Player, was one of those withdrawn.
"I'm a little uncomfortable and would rather not go to these lengths, but we needed to do something," said Hobbs.
"Arena have recently had an enormous rise in their media rights income but prize money continues to fall. They can definitely do better. Worcester hoping to meet tariff next year just isn't good enough."
Ciaran O'Brien, Ladbrokes' corporate affairs director, believes that the trainers are making things difficult for themselves.
"Ladbrokes supports the trainers' motives but the boycott is counter productive," he said. "It will leave betting shop customers with no race and no pictures, yet betting shops will still pay for both media coverage and prize money."
He added: "This is a poor way to treat racing's primary commercial partner and a poor way to treat betting shop customers. Racing cannot expect bookmakers to pay increased media rights charges on the one hand, and increased Levy fees on the other and continue to be blamed for low prize money - it doesn't add up.
"Betting revenues from racing are falling and media costs are going through the roof, while racing continues in-fighting over the spoils - it is unsustainable."
Arena's Kate Hills, who also represents William Hill, stated all races at Worcester would be up to tariff next year and that a meeting with the Horsemen's Group would take place.
"Obviously we were aware that this boycott was likely to go ahead and it's disappointing," she said.
"Worcester has taken a really hard hit in the Levy funding - it's been a 60% cut and it's really hard. We said all along that there would be some races not meeting tariff this year. We fully sympathise with trainers. Prize money levels are inadequate.
"We will definitely put the prize money back in for next year. All races will meet tariff. In the meantime, we are arranging a meeting with the Horsemen's Group to discuss the rest of this year. I'm sure there is a compromise we can come to.
"Putting on a race meeting is very expensive. Only this last week we hired in pumps to get the surface water off the track. We want to work with the Horsemen's Group. We're all in the same game together and we all want the same result. We really want to resolve this quickly."