The new values have the agreement of all the major stakeholders in the industry, including the Horsemen’s Group, and so remove the threat of any repeat of a mass withdrawal of horses from a race as happened at Worcester in July. They bring prize money for all races to a higher level than the old “minimum values”, which were the cause of some anger when they were dropped from all races below Class 2 last year following a decrease in Levy returns. That, in turn, led to the Horsemen’s Group setting up its own set of prize level tariffs, which some racecourses were unable to meet.
Charlie Mann, the trainer who organised the Worcester boycott, was pleased by the news. He told the Racing Post, “It has to be the right way forward. It will make all racecourses abide by the minimum values and it sorts out the whole issue. We don’t need tariffs or anything else. It should have happened years ago.”
By way of illustration, a Class 4 race, which was the level of the Worcester race, will be worth at least £5,800, compared to the £2,950 that was on offer in the summer. Class 4 races account for 44% of all jump races.
An important point about the new prize money levels is that they will be written into the rules of racing, so there is no scope for racecourses to find a way round them. Paul Bittar, chief executive of the BHA said, “I am delighted that we have succeeded in securing industry wide agreement for the introduction of BHA Race Values. This is a significant and positive step for all involved. The BHA Race Values are intended to deliver a core race programme as well as to reward the sport’s participants to better effect. The aim is to deliver competitive and compelling racing and we hope these values will be integral to that. This agreement is evidence that racing’s respective stakeholder interests are not mutually exclusive.”
The agreement offers further evidence that Bittar is able to draw a range of different interests into consensus, and that in his first year heading up the BHA he has brought strong leadership to an organisation that had lost its sense of direction.