Trainers have boycotted two races at Lingfield on Saturday in protest against low levels of prize-money.
The five-furlong Ladbrokes Novice Stakes had nine entries at the five-day stage but none were declared, while only Nick Litmoden’s Greybychoice was declared for the Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost Novice Stakes over a mile, meaning he will take home the entire £4,500 prize fund.
Lingfield is owned by Arena Racing Company, which has come in for increasing criticism of late over levels of prize-money at its tracks, after opting to reduce its contributions due to concerns over the impending cut to maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).
As Lingfield stages one of its headline events in the Winter Derby this weekend, trainer Phil McEntee, who has criticised ARC’s stance on social media, hopes the action has maximum effect.
“There has been enough of us that have been vociferous about ARC’s prize-money for a while, and there are a lot of trainers and owners who wanted ARC to know that going forward we aren’t happy,” said McEntee.
“What better day to let them know than on Winter Derby day?
“We can all see who had entries in the mile maiden – Mark Johnston, John Gosden, Charlie Appleby, Roger Charlton – and I think ARC thought this was a cry for help from the smaller guys who provide the most runners through the year, but it’s not just about the smaller trainers.
“The prize-money levels we are racing for in 2019 are simply not acceptable and I, for one, am absolutely delighted with what’s happened. ARC better take note.
“It is not by accident that one was declared in that race either. Somebody had to do something and I’m pleased there has been action. It’s up to the trainers to do something about it. This might not be the end of it, but it’s a starting point.
“ARC will definitely be aware now that it is not just me and a few others who have had their feathers ruffled.
“Unfortunately I’ve had to make an entry at Wolverhampton (which also owned by ARC) on Tuesday because it is owned and bred by some locals who want it to run there, but I’m not happy about it. At the same time, it’s not about one individual horse.
“My brother came over from America recently and couldn’t believe there where Dubawi colts and Frankel colts running for such pitiful sums. We’re supposed to have the best racing in the world yet we’re running for Third World money.”
Top trainer John Gosden offered his support.
The Newmarket handler – who has the hot favourite for the Winter Derby in Wissahickon – said: “It’s fair enough.
“Funnily enough, I had two in the race that didn’t get any entries, but one of them (White Coat) is running today and the other (Severnaya) is running tomorrow, both at Chelmsford.
“Both are running for double the money so it makes plain common sense to run closer to home and for more money.”
Archie Watson has been one of the leading trainers at Lingfield since taking out a licence and had entries in both affected races.
He said: “I didn’t feel that the prize-money merited me running my horses.
“All I can do is talk for myself – I can’t talk for anybody else apart from myself and my horses.
“I haven’t declared my horses because I didn’t think the prize-money was suitable for the class (of race).
“I didn’t feel I could justify running for that money.
“I imagine I trained among the most number of runners at Lingfield last year, and I have absolutely no problem with the track, (clerk of the course) George Hill and his team.
“This prize-money (level) has been across the ARC tracks, and it does need to change. The horsemen need to be properly rewarded for providing the runners.
“I will decide horse by horse (whether to run in the future).”
Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the National Trainers Federation, believes it is up to trainers where and when they run their horses.
He said: “The NTF supports trainers’ rights to exercise their choices on an individual basis.
“It is their individual decision whether they support those races or not.
“The NTF, Racehorse Owners Association, Racecourse Association and British Horseracing Authority are working together to see if we can help resolve the situation with prize money.
“That is an ongoing discussion – there is an industry effort to try to make some progress on this.”
ARC’s decision to cut its contributions means it no longer receives extra funding from the Levy Board for lower-grade races, but insists “constructive talks” are ongoing in an attempt to resolve the situation.
A spokesman said: “We have been open about the fact that, unlike 2018, we are no longer in a position to further invest to unlock Levy funding for grassroots racing.
“The Racecourse Association has made a proposal that will allow ARC, and all other racecourses, to continue to access the Levy funds assigned to support prize money in this important area of the race programme. This amounts to £4.5 million across our group.
“It is disappointing that this situation has occurred in the middle of these constructive talks between horsemen, BHA and racecourses, but we very much hope that they can progress and that this funding situation can be sorted as soon as possible.”