Jockey Danny Brock defended his decision to ride after enjoying a winner on a Lingfield card badly affected by the row over prize-money levels.
Arena Racing Company announced in December it was cutting back on prize-money as the operator anticipates a shortfall in the levy because of betting-shop closures following the Government’s decision to lower the maximum FOBT stake from £100 to £2.
Trainers, owners and jockeys voiced their dismay, and the decision to arrange a boycott of cards at ARC tracks came to a head last month when two races at Lingfield were targeted – with no runners in one and Nick Littmoden’s Greybychoice walking over in another.
Another race at Sedgefield last Sunday was also reduced to a walkover.
There have been positive developments since – with ARC committing on Saturday evening to unlocking extra fund for eligible races in March and a meeting between between the British Horseracing Authority, racecourses and horsemen on Tuesday described as “constructive”.
However, entries for midweek cards had already been made, and just 19 runners were declared for six races at Lingfield on Wednesday – a number that eventually shrunk to 14, leading to four straight matches.
While other jockeys decided against taking rides, Brock had a full book – and won with the first, aboard Littmoden’s Glutnforpunishment (4-7 favourite) in a two-runner opening race.
Brock told Sky Sports Racing: “I’m riding because I feel I have to be loyal to the owners and trainers who have supported me since I started riding.
“I’m not doing it to spite anybody, and I’m probably going to lose a few friends.
“A few owners and trainers probably don’t agree with what I’m doing. But I feel like the people that put me under pressure didn’t support me anyway, and I felt I had nothing to lose by sticking by people who’ve looked after me.
“I have two little girls, and nobody thinks of me when I haven’t got any rides.
“I’ve done what’s right by me, and what’s right by my family.”
He added: “You’re always going to get some who will try to sway you in a different direction, and they probably want me to look at the bigger picture, but I don’t get a lot of rides – I probably get four or five rides a month.
“For me to have an opportunity to possibly go and earn some money and pay respect to the people who have stood by me – I feel that is the right decision for me.”
Littmoden saddled a double, with Glutnforpunishment’s victory followed by that of 6-4 favourite Toriano.
The latter was partnered by little-known French-based jockey Dylan Alberca-Gavilan.
He punched the air after passing the post in front – and could not recall his last winner – but said in broken English: “It’s a beautiful day.”
Littmoden said: “No one wants to win races in these circumstances, but my owners are very supportive and they don’t want to mess around – they want to race horses.
“That’s what I’m paid to do – that’s what they pay training fees for.”
Jockey Philip Prince also enjoyed a double, scoring aboard Scott Dixon’s pair Love Rat (5-2) and Champagne Mondays (11-10).
Prince said: “You take every opportunity thrown at you. That’s what we take a riding licence out for – to ride horses in races.”
Another trainer among the winners was Paul George, whose Sea Of Marengo obliged as the 1-5 favourite under 5lb claimer Rhiain Ingram.
George – who has had a training licence only seven months – said: “I’m not happy for racing that this is the spectacle we’ve put on.
“I support any trainer’s decision to boycott – the prize-money situation is very bad. That’s not just here, but across the board in Britain.
“For me, it wasn’t an option to boycott – for my owners, for my staff and for a young business that’s just starting.
“I felt I had to do what’s right for the people that support me.”
There were just 27 runners at Fontwell – another ARC track.
Amateur rider Lorna Brooke led up Yourholidayisover – trained by her mother Lady Susan Brooke – before steering him to finish second in the opening race.
She said: “We can’t afford to keep training them at home and not earning anything out of them.
“He (Yourholidayisover) needs to earn some money – otherwise he won’t be fed next week!
“I understand why they do it (boycott races), but we can’t afford not to be here today.”
After saddling Marmont to finish second later on the card, trainer Jo Davis spoke of the harsh realities for some smaller trainers.
“What upsets me more than anything is we’ve lost the ability to empathise and listen to one one another – people have lost sight that the people at the bottom end literally live from hand to mouth ,” she said.
“I’m riding six horses every day – I’m mucking out seven or eight horses every day. I still have to be a mother, and I have no back-up or support.
“When the entries were happening I wasn’t going to enter because I wasn’t sure what to do – I was in a complete mess.
“People have said we shouldn’t be running, but I’ve had amazing support.
“There is no right and wrong – there is just what you have to do to survive.”
There were understandably sparse numbers in attendance to watch racing at either venue – and clerk of the course George Hill confirmed none were paying customers at Lingfield.
“I’m not sure of the numbers through the gate,” he said.
“We were not charging anyone – but there weren’t too many here.
“From my point of view, and Lingfield’s, we can’t do any more than we have done to accommodate customers.
“It is not a Lingfield thing but a group-wide issue – and we just happen to be caught in the line of fire, racing today and Friday.”