Jockey Club plans substantial prize-money increase to lift race values by £8m
The Jockey Club is to pump an extra £4.2 million from its own coffers into UK prize-money in 2018, increasing total race values by £8 million in a move the Horsemen's Group said would benefit not only owners but punters and racegoers too.
The record executive contribution of £27.1m, subject to abandonments, is a massive 18.3 per cent increase on 2017, while the total race values offered across the group's 15 racecourses next year is set to increase to more than £53m.
Those race values will include around £1.6m from the new industry appearance money scheme, funded by the uplift in the sport's income from the government's levy reforms, in which qualifying races will offer payments of at least £300 for horses finishing between fifth and eighth.
Jockey Club Racecourses said it has unlocked that funding in every available case by increasing its own investment in prize-money where necessary, a move it said demonstrated its commitment to racing at all levels of the sport.
Since 2010 the Jockey Club will have more than doubled its annual contribution to prize-money from its own resources.
JCR chief executive Paul Fisher said: "This is the Jockey Club's largest-ever commitment to horsemen and we really hope that will also translate into good news for racing fans.
"I’m very proud of our people who have worked hard to achieve the commercial results we need to be able to offer this. Because we already put all of our money back into the sport, we can only increase our prize-money contribution if we create the commercial returns to do so."
Key among those commercial returns is the new media rights deal between SIS and Racecourse Media Group, which the Jockey Club is part of and which is due to start on April 1.
Ticket and hospitality sales, music, conferences, events and sponsorship have also contributed.
The Jockey Club said every one of its 348 fixtures in 2018 would offer at least £40,000 in total race values, with that figure rising to at least £65,000 on Sundays.
Each fixture will include at least one race worth £10,000, while 83 per cent will have at least two per meeting, compared to 58 per cent this year.
The Jockey Club's 'smaller courses' – Carlisle, Exeter, Huntingdon, Market Rasen, Nottingham, Warwick and Wincanton – will have at least one fixture previously worth around £55,000 boosted to £80,000 or more from 2018, meaning they will each stage at least four fixtures worth £80,000 or more next year.
Fisher added: "Some people might think our prize-money is all about the highest-race classes or at one or two racecourses, but these figures demonstrate another step forward in our commitment to supporting British racing at all levels."
Jockey Club executive contribution to prize-money
The Jockey Club said "significant increases" for the group's big names also formed part of their prize-money commitment for 2018 and would be announced in coming weeks.
That would include Kempton, where plans for the course's closure unveiled at the start of the year led to fierce criticism of the Jockey Club.
Horsemen's Group chairman Philip Freedman said the body, which represents, owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders and stable staff, was delighted by the increase in the Jockey Club’s prize-money contribution.
He added: "Given the new media rights contracts are placing greater emphasis on field sizes, the increases, particularly for grassroots racing, should ensure these fixtures are attractive to horsemen.
"The minimum guarantees at every fixture, and at enhanced levels on Sundays, should ensure these fixtures are attractive not only to owners but to racegoers and the betting public, to the benefit of all those whose livelihoods depend on the health of the sport."
Comment: Ending year on a high after a controversial start
The Jockey Club started 2017 in the doghouse, with the news it planned to close Kempton and sell it for housing causing outrage across the sport.
Nothing less than a complete volte face on the home of the King George will redeem the organisation's standing in many eyes, but the Jockey Club is ending the year with a much more welcome announcement.
There are times when prize-money increases are announced and they are less generous than they might seem or are targeted in the wrong place.
However, the Jockey Club's news that it is increasing its executive contribution to prize-money by a hefty £4.2 million and increasing total race values by £8m is a significant move and one to be welcomed.
Also to be welcomed is the group's decision to unlock all the extra levy funding being made available for the grassroots of the sport.
There may still be hiccups
There will be questions asked if other racecourses do not follow suit, given the need to shore up the base of the pyramid of British racing to help retain owners and horses and aid hard-pressed trainers, jockeys and stable staff operating away from the glamorous end of the sport.
There may still be some hiccups ahead as new media rights deals are helping to fund the increase in prize-money.
A small but significant number of independent bookmakers have not yet signed up to take the service from SIS, which will become the Jockey Club's betting shop media rights partner from April.
There is also the question mark overhanging the retail betting sector from the government's review of FOBTs.
But while there is not yet clarity on those issues, the Jockey Club ends 2017 with its reputation improved.
Now if only it could change its mind about Kempton . . .
Jockey Club facts and figures
Racecourses Aintree, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Epsom, Exeter, Haydock, Huntingdon, Kempton, Market Rasen, Newmarket July Course, Newmarket Rowley Mile, Nottingham, Sandown, Warwick and Wincanton
Jockey Club Racecourses has increased its executive contribution to prize-money by a record £4.2 million in 2018
Total race values at JCR courses next year will be more than £53m
Every JCR fixture will offer at least £40,000 in total race values
Every Sunday fixture run at JCR will have at least £65,000 in total race values
Every JCR fixture will include at least one race worth £10,000 or more, while 83 per cent of the group’s fixtures will have at least two per fixture
Every JCR ‘small course’ will have at least one fixture previously worth approximately £55,000 boosted to £80,000 or more from 2018