A total of 31 runners will go to post in six contests at Lingfield on Friday after it emerged hopes are rising of a resolution to the current prize-money dispute between trainers and Arena Racing Company.
Friday is the last of three days targeted by handlers for boycott action as they expressed their anger over ARC’s decision to cut back on its contributions to prize money at the 16 tracks it operates nationwide.
Only 60 entries were made for the Lingfield card and those initial possibles have been whittled down further, with one match race scheduled to take place.
However, the card has not been hit as hard as fixtures earlier in the week, with Wednesday’s meeting at Lingfield drawing just 17 contenders and 27 horses lining up at Fontwell’s National Hunt fixture.
Thursday’s meeting at Southwell has also suffered with only 20 declarations, but the healthier numbers for Friday follow what was described as a “constructive” meeting between the British Horseracing Authority, racecourses and horsemen on Tuesday.
A BHA spokesman said: “A constructive meeting has been staged between representatives of the BHA, racecourses and horsemen.
“A range of measures were agreed in principle with the aim of maintaining 2018 prize money levels through the remainder of 2019 though further steps are required before an agreement is finalised before the end of March.
“A further meeting has been arranged to continue to develop the industry’s approach to the changing media rights landscape.”
It was announced in December that changes would be made as ARC 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.
Trainers, owners and jockeys voiced their dismay at the decision, with the situation coming 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 last Sunday was then was reduced to a walkover, but there appeared to have been 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.
One of the trainers present at Tuesday’s meeting was Stuart Williams, who said: “I think everyone who was there had the frame of mind of trying to solve the problem.
“There was the agreement last Saturday to put the prize-money back in, but by then the entries for the affected races this week had already been made and they couldn’t be reopened, which was a nuisance, but that’s the way it was and it meant field sizes were always going to be undersized.
“From my point of view, from Saturday onwards things are going back to normal for the time being and further meetings have been arranged.”
Williams is likely to be well represented at Saturday’s meeting at Wolverhampton – an ARC track.
The Newmarket-based trainer confirmed Kempton winner Keystroke an intended runner in the sunracing.co.uk Lady Wulfruna Stakes, while Pinnata and Winter Derby third Pactolus are set to give him a strong hand in the sunracing.co.uk Lincoln Trial Handicap.