Ralph Beckett, Classic-winning trainer and former President of the National Trainers Federation

The obvious one is a sustainable funding mechanism – in a perfect world we’d have a Pari-Mutuel type system, but that’s not going to happen.

I think the government needs to tell the bookmakers that they have to stop running down the clock. If they are not going to play ball, they need to be told what to do in my opinion, but the government isn’t going to do that – that’s the problem.

I don’t think racing has helped itself in that we were far too anxious to defend FOBTs five years ago. We were compromised by the links that the leadership at the BHA had with the betting industry, and everything that has happened since is in some way linked to the fact that we were very happy to take bookmakers’ money when they were ripping off their customers. There were some in the bookmaking fraternity that were warning 15 years ago that it wasn’t sustainable, but the larger bookmakers ignored it.

We are still trying to work with the betting industry; I don’t think that’s sustainable. We should be telling them where to get off and we should be telling the government that bookmakers need to pay a decent price for the product.

Everybody is far too conflicted at the top, and nothing has happened. It’s not a secret that the outgoing Chairman of the BHA, Joe Saumarez Smith – who is an owner of mine – is a major shareholder in an online casino, and that’s a problem. But it’s unfair to expect government to sort it out when we can’t sort out our own house. We are far too conflicted. We should be charging bookmakers and not cosying up to them.


Gay Kelleway, trainer and ROA Board member

Any further delay in resolving the issues surrounding gambling legislation and affordability checks and so on are concerning, but you won’t find me in the doom and gloom camp as I actually think the sport in this country is in a lot better shape than people give it credit for.

That said, there is one area in which the next government could make a big difference, and that’s in relaxing the legislation that makes it so hard to bring foreign staff in nowadays.

You can’t sail the ship alone, and you are only as good as your staff. I’m lucky in that I’ve got a great team looking after my 18 horses, including a head girl who has been with me for 22 years, but a lot of the bigger stables are finding it more difficult than ever to get the right people.

Racing needs staff, and we are not generally attracting the right people from closer to home. We can’t keep relying on kids from the Racing School or from riding schools. There seem to be too many things going on in the lives of most British kids these days, and not everybody is brave any more. Back in the day we would fall off, get up and get on with it, but it’s a different mentality now – and I don’t blame them, actually.

I used to get some great lads from Turkey, for example, both boys and girls. They already knew what they were doing, and they were the right sort of weight, but we can’t get them now.

But after 32 years as a trainer, I still think racing is great. I find I’m working harder than ever to attract new owners, but I’m still gaining them, not losing them, and I couldn’t be happier. I still love it.


John Francome, retired former champion jump jockey, pundit and author

Visas for overseas workers in racing is number one for me.

When Victor Dartnall retired recently he made a comment which every owner should look to. He said that it makes a massive difference if you can have the same person riding your horse every day, and that’s become very hard for a lot of trainers.

Good riders are a necessity and there are precious few of them these days, I’m afraid. There are plenty of good lightweight riders available in South America, India and so on, but the current immigration laws make it very difficult to bring them over. Pretty much every trainer in the country will tell you this.

I’d also say that if the Labour party is elected it will only be a matter of time before they ban the whip. Racing needs to get on the front foot to pre-empt that and deal with the issue on its own terms before the government forces its hand.


Alex Frost, CEO of UK Tote Group, racehorse owner and breeder

It is essential that British racing agrees a unified ten-year commercial strategy that embraces the entire sport, and which allows a more far-reaching buy-in.

British racing is only one part of a vast equine industry when you consider its employment and reach. To ensure the support of the next generation, racing needs to be thinking much more laterally and working very closely with those around it, especially government, on both domestic and, crucially, international opportunities of which there are many to go after.

At the most basic level, racing first needs to work effectively with existing international partners to maximise commercial opportunities and income to the sport. We enjoy extraordinary global interest, not matched by any other racing nation, yet too often we fail to present our international partners with a very clear plan for how they can work with the whole of British racing to everyone’s benefit.

From my experience of working with the Department of Business and Trade, the government wants to get behind a leading UK sector like horseracing – but it has to know how it can assist us. Its support can add huge weight to our conversations with leading racing authorities, such as the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Japan Racing Association and PMU. It is incumbent on British racing, and its partners like the Tote, to fully utilise this in a coherent and effective manner as part of a ten-year commercial strategy.


Conor McGinn, former Labour MP and owner

 I think we always start from the wrong position here. It shouldn’t be what can racing ask of the next government. It should be what can we offer the next government – and we need to be far better at selling ourselves.

Ideally, we would be in a much stronger position in terms of our relationship with the incoming government, but we have to focus on the future; we have an opportunity now to essentially present Labour with a compelling story about the benefits that racing brings to the economy, to the cultural and sporting life of Britain and to communities.

We have a great story to tell and sometimes because of the complicated and convoluted nature of some of the discussions we have around levy and welfare and other what might be described as contentious issues, we lose sight of that which is staring us in the face.

That is a very simple, attractive proposition to any government about a great British product that is world renowned and a huge net contributor to the economy.

Let’s go back to fundamentals and first principles here in terms of our relationship with the next government and be confident and positive about our great sport.


Andrew Black, owner, breeder and entrepreneur

Racing has been the perennial loser in decades of betting and gaming evolution; it gets caught in the crossfire every time the regulator acts to stem the growth of problem gambling. For as long as we are grouped in with other forms of gambling, we are caught in a downward spiral and are powerless to respond to the growing burden of regulation.

We are social and cultural in nature in ways that no other forms of gambling can claim to be, and we have a right to protection. I would like the incoming government to see that horseracing is carved out and differentiated from all other forms of gambling in future legislation – only then can we build effective strategies for future growth.