I AM not going to pretend I fully understand the mechanics of the British racing programme, but there is no doubt that the system is not working, and it appears to me that the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is trying anything it can to fix it.
If they are, then it would appear that they are not doing a good job of it, as each move they make seems to either alienate some, or disappoint others. Standing back from it, the overriding fact is that there are too many races, attracting far too many small or miniscule fields, and they are generally racing for a pittance, with many race values only matching what they were decades ago.
Long term effect
The long term effect of this strategy, if that is what it is, will be to devalue the racing product. While many bemoan the outflow of decent runners to high-value racing jurisdictions such as Australia, the United States and Hong Kong, there could also be a knock-on effect of lowering the quality of racing in Britain, and the demand for their winners could also dissipate. The rot has to stop, but there needs to be strong action taken.
For Irish racing this might appear to offer an opportunity to attract owners, but it is reasonable to say that competition in Ireland is intense, and that is in the case of both flat and National Hunt spheres. On the breeding front, we need to see a stronger racing product in Britain, and it is in our interests that this happens sooner rather than in the future.
This week, on the surface, the BHA announcement that minimum prize money levels would be increased is welcome. Yes, minimum values on the flat will rise across the board, from £250,000 (up £50,000) for three-year-old and older Group 1 races to £5,000 (up £700) for class six contests. There are similar increases over jumps.
While all this is laudable, when the BHA was pressed to say how many races would be affected by the increases, they were unable to do so. That is laughable. Surely they could not be implementing a broad policy such as the one they have announced without knowing what it would cost? That would appear to be a starting point, and then you work out what these increases will cost and how they will be funded.
When you read promotional literature from France which tells you a maiden winner can earn enough to cover 10 months of training fees, it is small wonder that more British owners are looking across the channel with envy.