Just 19 runners have been declared for six races at Lingfield on Wednesday as repercussions of the row over prize-money levels rumble on.
Arena Racing Company announced in December it was cutting back on its contributions as the operator prepares for an expected shortfall in the levy because of anticipated betting shop closures following the Government’s decision to lower the maximum FOBT stake from £100 to £2.
This decision has been met with dismay by many trainers, owners and jockeys, and the situation came to a head last month when two races at Lingfield were boycotted – with no runners declared in one and Nick Littmoden’s Greybychoice enjoying a walkover in another.
Another race at Sedgefield on Sunday was reduced to a walkover, and Classic-winning trainer Ralph Beckett was among those keen to take further action at meetings at ARC tracks for three days this week.
However, there was a positive development on Saturday evening when ARC and the National Trainers Federation issued a joint-statement – in which ARC committed to unlocking extra funds for all eligible races in March.
This was, of course, after the entries for Lingfield’s Wednesday fixture had been made – and with just 40 horses entered, small field sizes were already guaranteed.
Three of the six races are straight matches between two horses following the declaration stage, while there are three runners in another.
The one-mile handicap has attracted the biggest field with six runners.
Another ARC course, Fontwell, is also due to race on Wednesday. A total of 82 entries were made for that card, and declarations will close on Tuesday morning.
Further discussions between ARC and key industry figures are due to take place on Tuesday.