After months of wrangling between the British Horseracing Authority, the Levy Board, The Horsemenâ€™s Group and bookmakers the BHA is expected to confirm today that there will be a total of 1450 race meetings next year, down just 30 from the 1480 this year. At long last weâ€™ll soon know the 2012 racing calendar.
It has taken months to reach a number that all parties could accept. The BHA had said early in August that it would set a cap of 1400 meetings, on the grounds that a projected fall of around 7% in horses in training required a reduction in order to minimise the number of races with very small fields.
Equally critical to reaching agreement was clarity on the Levy Boardâ€™s contribution towards prize money. They are due to confirm that today at Â£38.2m, although the way in which the money is distributed will change. There will be significant improvements to incentives paid to racecourses to host meetings on days when big crowds are unlikely, but which are needed to maintain betting interest. The Board will also set aside some Â£4.2m to underpin racing at Class 2,3 and 4 levels.
Yet even yesterday a case of rage over a lost penny threatened to derail things. After the tracks and bookmakers had brokered an agreement that would have seen 1451 meetings, the BHA refused to give way and insisted the number be rounded down. A game of telephone lottery ensued as racecourses and their owning companies were asked to select a number between 1 and 83 to establish which of them would lose a fixture.
It turned out that Arena Leisure had drawn the losing ticket, number 32, which caused some annoyance amongst its board members. However, they regained their equanimity and their lost fixture within a matter of hours after another racecourse group did not take up its full allocation of fixtures. Thus, another chapter in the farcical world of the BHA drew to a close.