British racing will be aided in its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic after the sport’s leaders and the Horserace Betting Levy Board announced they are borrowing £21.5 million of loan funding from the UK government’s Sport Winter Survival Package.
Over £400m has been lost in racecourse revenues since the start of the pandemic alongside a reduction of over £65 million paid out as prize-money to participants.
The funds from the Sport Winter Survival Package will be distributed in a number of ways, with £7.5m to be used to enhance prize-money for 12 months from July 2021 in order to support engagement levels and maximise the retention of horse numbers.
The allocations will be split with 60% going to Flat racing and 40% to jumps and will be in line with the nature of the fixture list and the HBLB’s historic funding split. This money will be targeted to support the upper tiers of racing and developmental races.
Furthermore, Flat novice and maiden races between Classes 3, 4 and 5, and jumps novice and maiden races for Classes 3 and 4 will receive additional support in the form of fixed grants to top-up prize-money worth over £3.5 million.
Minimum values of black type races will remain the same but additional funding will be provided to races run above the minimum value, with every £1 of prize-money offered above that amount unlocking an additional £1 of matched funding, up to a maximum amount determined by race class.
These races will be Group 2, Group 3 and Listed races on the Flat, and over jumps they will be Grade 1 and Grade 2 races, including for novices.
Racecourses continue to be hit despite the return of spectators to track and the plans unveiled by the sport revealed that £7.5m will be deployed to support the raceday integrity costs incurred at those fixtures.
Additionally, £6.5m of the package secured from government will be retained by the Levy Board to provide further support across 2021 and 2022.
Julie Harrington, Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Authority, said: “British racing is grateful for this vital support from the Sport Winter Survival Package. We much appreciate the assistance of the Levy Board in agreeing to take on the loan and work with racing to agree how the money is best used and distribute using existing funding processes.
“Plans for the deployment of these funds have been designed to target the areas where we have seen a decline in horses in training and provide confidence in the future to our investors.
“Britain is rightly proud of its unique and world-leading racing heritage. But it is clear that with competition around the globe increasing, this is not sufficient to attract the best in the world to be trained and raced here. Ensuring that prize-money is competitive helps ensure that Britain has the best horses, which benefits everybody who loves the sport.
“It is also important that we recognise the contribution and sacrifices made by trainers and jockeys, and the loyalty of their owners, that have combined to keep racing going during the pandemic.
“Vital to the overall success of British racing are our unique racecourses, whose staff have also worked so hard since racing resumed to ensure we remain compliant with Covid rules and guidelines. Supporting their financial recovery is an important part of this plan and will help to ensure our races retain their place as being at the forefront of the global racing scene.”
Racehorse Owners Association Chief Executive Charlie Liverton added: “The Sports Winter Package loan will provide a much-needed enhancement to prize-money levels as British racing, along with other major sports, recovers from the impact of COVID-19.
“It is well noted that owners spend in excess of £30m a month on training fees to ensure that the race programme is fulfilled, along with jockeys riding fees of around £15m per year. We are grateful to have been able to resume behind closed doors for much of the pandemic, albeit for much-reduced prize-money levels, the impact of which has been felt by owners, trainers, jockeys, stable staff and breeders.
“The resilience of owners is such that overall, horses in training numbers are higher than they have been at any time over the past five years. However, it must be recognised that British racing does have a problem with the number of two-year-olds entering training. It is a concern that the numbers are down on previous years with domestic and international owners choosing to have their horses trained in overseas jurisdictions because of the higher levels of prize-money on offer.
“Prize-money, and its equitable distribution across the participants, is critical to the retention and future growth of owners and the number of horses in training, which in turn will determine British racing’s standing amongst overseas racing jurisdictions. We are therefore grateful to government for providing British racing with much needed and very welcome financial support.”