Following recent cuts to prize money across the racing scene, Chelmsford Racecourse has called for further support from horsemen to offset the drop in revenues as a result of loss in media rights.
After the introduction of FOBT legislation, which dropped machine stakes from £100 to £2, an estimated 1,100 betting shops have closed their doors which has subsequently resulted in a mass loss to levy contributions.
Chief operating officer at Chelmsford Racecourse, Phil Siers, explained that while the Essex racecourse has long been considered to have one of the best prize-money pots for racers, the overall outlook for racing isn’t looking promising.
The COO has called for both owners and trainers to consider sending horses to Chelmsford racecourse in a bid to create larger field sizes, which will subsequently unlock larger payments to the course, which will be reflected in the prize-money offered.
Speaking to the Racing Post, Siers explained: “Media rights, which allow us to put on big prize-money, have dropped because of the loss of betting shops in the last 12 months and accelerated since April, so our prize-money has dropped, but not as much as it could have,” he said.
“If we were doing a comparative pro-rata it might be £5,000-£6,000 per meeting, but if you look at other tracks’ executive contributions you’ll see prize-money is gradually falling and people in racing have to expect prize-money is going to fall.
“One of the criteria for courses to get fixtures from the BHA is executive contribution and the other is runners per race, so I’m saying, ‘Guys, help us to keep the prize-money up by sending us the runners and we’ll do our bit with the prize-money’.
“These aren’t factual numbers, but if we were 10.5 runners a race instead of 9.5 that would help with additional fixtures.”
The plea comes after a number of trainers boycotted several meetings at Arena Racing Company-owned tracks after the group confirmed it would be dropping prize money contributions by £3m.
A compromise was eventually reached following a cash injection from the HBLB, however that also proved short-lived due to an unexpected crash in levy income.
Siers added that the best way to keep prize-money up was by the industry continuing to support the course, and added: “Generally speaking we’re delighted with the support we get from owners and trainers.
“The owners want to race for more prize-money and we want to give it to them, but we just need everyone, as they are doing, to continue to support us and we’ll try to keep our prize-money as high as possible.”
The shape of things to come? Loss of media rights income starting to filter through to prize funds. Our EC disappointingly dropped to £48.3k per meeting still 12.6% above our nearest rival and 54% above the worst. Owners and trainers we need your support to maintain prize funds.
— Philip Siers (@SiersPhilip) October 7, 2019