Italian racing on brink of financial meltdown

meltdownThe whole future of horse racing in Italy is on notice, triggered by a block on paying out prize money for all races between September and December 2012. Amongst those feeling the effects of that are the owners of Richard Hannon’s Law Enforcement and Saeed Bin Suroor’s Hunter’s Light. Both horses won Group 1 races in the autumn.

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The crisis is not new, as Guido Melzi d’Eril, president of Italy’s Federation of Racecourses, pointed out. He said, “Last year racing in Italy carried on thanks to the determination of people employed in the industry, even though many were not being paid their salaries. Without that commitment the industry wouldn’t have kept going against the constant reduction of its income and 50 % cut in revenue. But at some point, without payment of money owed to it, racing will not be able to continue.”

There were high hopes that the general election held at the end of February in Italy would have led to a settlement and some degree of financial stability in the country. But the opposite has come about, and with no government in place six weeks after the election, there are fears that another election will be called later in the year, leaving any state contribution to the sport in limbo.

Now Italian racing faces the prospect of losing all recognition from the European Pattern Committee (EPC) following a call from the German Jockey Club for a boycott of racing in the country. A decline in the number and quality of overseas entrants for the Italian Derby over the past few years led to a downgrading of the race to Group 2 status. This year, Pisa’s Premio Andred, run last month, lost its black type status, although the Premio del Giubileo, run at Milan in June, was upgraded form Listed to Group 3 status.

Brian Kavanagh, chairman of the EPC, set out how his committee would handle the German proposal to suspend Italy from the Pattern. He said, “The complaint is currently under consideration by the EPC, who would wish to be helpful but find it difficult given the dire situation in Italy. The EPC will discuss the matter via conference call later this week, after which I expect we will be reverting to the Italian government and racing authorities with our position. The ultimate sanction is, of course, the removal of black type status for Italian races in 2014, which I fear could be a realistic possibility unless things improve.”

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