15th March 2015

An interesting piece in this morning’s Racing Post points out that we can expect there to be a jockey shortage at the Lincoln meeting with the introduction of a £155,000 card at Chelmsford in addition to Kempton and, most importantly, the Dubai World Cup.

I can’t remember the last time I was at the Lincoln meeting. A long long time ago. I am invariably at the Dubai Word Cup and it, almost invariably, clashes with the Lincoln.

I’m sure that few, if any, people care whether I am there or not and the same will apply to most other trainers but there have been many times when the BHA, GBR (formerly Racing For No Change), and the Racecourse Association have claimed that trainers need to do more to interact with the public and the media at race meetings. There have even been moves to force us to do so although attendance itself has, to date, always been voluntary.

The importance of attracting top jockeys to our top meetings is rarely disputed although there are now many examples of fixture clashes at weekends which demonstrate that some of the Food And Beverage men and women who run racecourses have lost sight of this. Clashes with top international meetings like the Dubai World Cup cannot always be avoided and we just have to face the fact that, when it happens, Britain, with its pitiful prize-money, is always going to be less attractive to those who have the opportunity to ride at a more lucrative meeting. But, surely, it is foolish, to say the least, to encourage them to do so.

We have already succumbed to pressure and agreed to start the British jockeys championship in late March and end it in early November, reducing it to little over seven months of the year, but there have been numerous calls for further reductions to a season of less than six months and suggestions that this championship should carry a reward in the region of £50,000 for riding the most winners in half of the year.

The main argument for a break in the season, and it has some merit, is that we cannot expect our top jockeys to work flat out for twelve months of the year. But the reality is that the top jockeys take the opportunity, when wins don’t count for the championship, to ride abroad in countries where the prize-money is generally much better. I have no doubt that a twelve month championship would result in our top jockeys having a much greater presence on our racecourses throughout the year and would ultimately be beneficial to British racing. I am sure they would still go to the Dubai World Cup, the Breeders Cup, the Arc and for a couple of weeks lying on a beach somewhere, and rightly so.

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