Racing to pay prize money down to eighth place

Details of a new plan aimed at boosting racing's field sizes by paying 'appearance money' down to eighth place have emerged.

Racing’s leaders have revealed preliminary details of a plan to boost field sizes and channel new funding into the lower tiers of the sport by paying prize money down to eighth place in all races, effectively creating a new appearance money scheme for the sport.

Speaking at a British Racing Industry roadshow at York racecourse in front of an audience from across the sport, British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust said that the introduction of a new funding mechanism for the sport, announced by Government in January, could lead to an additional £30-40million of income for the sport.

Rust stressed that, at first, not all of this money would be pumped straight back into prize money, with the sport having effectively over-spent in order to prop up existing prize money levels against reducing Levy income in recent years.

However, BHA chief operating officer Richard Wayman revealed that in conjunction with the Horsemen’s Group and the Racecourse Association, talks are under way to target ‘grassroots racing’ once the proceeds of the new 10% gross profits charge on bets placed on British racing by British punters starts to yield an increased dividend to the sport.

While the statistic that the average owner recoups just 26p of every £1 spent on British racing is well known, Wayman said that figure startlingly drops to just 8p in the £1 “at the lower end”.

“As funding increases, we must target that money at grassroots and make the experience of owning an average horse far better than it is now,” he said.

“In 2016, more than 3,500 races had less than eight runners. That’s 36% of the programme. That was actually an improvement on the previous year, but the simple fact is that too many races are still falling short.

“One of the things that we are working on is a significant and substantial appearance money scheme that will see payments made to connections of owners down to eighth place. That, in itself, will help reduce the number of owners whose return from the sport is zero.”

Asked about the alternative of making an appearance money payment to every runner, mirroring the successful incentive scheme introduced by Chester racecourse last year, Horsemen’s Group chairman Philip Freedman explained: “It has been considered, but we need to ensure it is a meaningful amount of money – if we were to end up paying money to every runner in every big-field maiden, we would find that the money would go less far.

“You might be looking at appearance money of, say, £80-£100 per runner – offering money down to around £300 for eighth place probably makes more sense.”

Wayman was adamant that there were no plans to increase the fixture list in size and that the BHA would instead look to create “a more efficient fixture list, avoiding clashes and removing gaps, moving more fixtures into twilight or evening slots”.

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