The BHA was unimpressed with last night’s performance, with spokesman Robin Mounsey saying, “The BHA reserves the right to take further action against the relevant trainers if required. What form this action might take will be considered in due course by the BHA.”
All that could be done yesterday was to fine each of the 11 trainers who withdrew their horses £140, as the withdrawals were not for legitimate reasons such as a vets certificate. Even this won’t have cost them a penny, as trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies owned the only horse left in the race, Moulin De La Croix. He paid the fines out of the £3,000 prize money he picked up, with the balance going to the Injured Jockeys’ Fund.
Partex, the sponsors of last night’s race, probably received more publicity than they would have done in the normal course of events, were extremely disappointed. First, they were not contacted by the course to see if they would put in the additional £900 needed to bring the prize money up to the Horsemen’s Group tariff.
Secondly, as managing director Peter Symonds said, “The way the trainers have gone about it has left a nasty taste in the mouth. It is a who’s who of trainers at the top of their profession, and although I’m not surprised Charlie Mann was involved, I am disappointed some of the others have jumped on board.”
Opinion was fairly evenly divided across the industry, with support for the action coming from the Horsemen’s Group (naturally) and the Professional Jockeys’ Association. Joint president Tony McCoy, who was riding at Worcester last night, said, “The PJA will be supporting any action the trainers take as they maintain it is in the interests of owners and stable staff who are all suffering as the result of poor prize money.”
On the other side of the argument were bookmakers (naturally) and the Racecourse Association. Their chief executive Stephen Atkin was unhappy about withdrawing horses as a tactic to highlight concerns about low prize money. He said, “Withdrawing a horse other than for genuine racing reasons must be a breach of the rules. We can’t see how it can be right to withdraw a horse on the day because an owner or trainer doesn’t like the prize money. They knew what the prize money was when they entered, so nothing’s changed.”
And perhaps that statement offers an equally effective way of getting the point across. If trainers simply didn’t enter their horses in any race that failed to meet the tariff, the few errant courses would find themselves unable to put on a full card. That wouldn’t leave anyone happy, but may prove the most effective way of bringing about the small increase in prize money that’s needed to bring an end to this unfortunate situation.