Money talks at 243rd Gimcrack Dinner at York Racecourse

THE financial plight of the horseracing industry was placed at the top of the agenda at last night’s 243rd Gimcrack Dinner at York Racecourse.

British Horseracing Authority chairman Steve Harman, the main speaker, told the 136 invited guests in the Gimcrack Room at Knavesmire that in his first five months in the job he had seen “the passion, the dedication, the determination to make this sport healthier and stronger”.

But Harman added: “While passion, dedication and loyalty to the sport provide a great foundation, it is not enough to support a sport and an industry.

“In any business or sport it is essential that the participants receive an appropriate financial return. It is therefore healthy that there are successful commercial operations directly connected to racing.

“But it is clear to me that much of the core of this industry is not so fortunate.

“Encouragingly prize money has increased from a low of £94 million in 2009, to over £110 million in 2013 and around £123 million in 2014. However, these returns to owners at average 23p in the pound are unacceptable and detrimentally affecting horse population, fixture list and jobs.

“Many mid-range trainers with say 20 to 50 horses struggle to make ends meet; many jockeys outside the top 20 make little money; many smaller owner/ breeders struggle; many racecourses make low returns.”

Harman acknowledged that there had to be action to back up the words of his speech.

“Many previous Gimcrack speeches have touched some elements of the challenges and opportunities in British racing, but are we turning rhetoric and concern into action?” he said.

“The plusses are all well known. Nowhere else in global racing is there the prestige, the tradition, the beauty and diversity which British racing enjoys.

“So where do we go with this great sport? First and foremost this sport, like any, must ensure that its reputation is maintained and indeed enhanced.

“In recent years racing has started to diversify and grow its income streams and there is scope to do more.”

Harman added: “I feel bullish about racing’s prospects. We do not enjoy the health we deserve, but the work already in hand gives me very high confidence in the future growth of our sport.”

Traditionally, guests are also addressed by the owner of the winning horse from the Gimcrack Stakes, a Group 2 contest for two year-olds at the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival in August.

That honour last night fell to Angie Bailey and partner Peter Tingey, the co-owners of the colt Astaire, trained in Hambleton by Kevin Ryan.


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