Picture: UPSPLASH/SIMON PETROL
Picture: UPSPLASH/SIMON PETROL

Just a fortnight after equine flu closed down UK racing for six days, another crisis has hit the sport with trainers boycotting last Saturday’s race meeting at Lingfield because of reduced prize money.

The protest resulted in only five races on the proposed seven-race card being run — one had to be scrapped and another became a walkover.

Lingfield is one of 18 UK racecourses run by the Arena Racing Company and the cut in prize money for lower grade races has been implemented because of an anticipated cut in betting shops.

Top northern trainer Mark Johnston said: “It gets to a point where it’s not viable to take a horse all the way to Lingfield for poor money. The whole situation of ARC cutting prize money is out of order. The prize money at Chelmsford is absolutely fantastic. I’ve been going there since its rebirth and — though a long way — we simply have to go as the prize money is wonderful.”

Chelmsford is owned by Betfred founder Fred Done.

Trainer Ralph Beckett  said “trainers have acted as individuals and have voted with their feet regarding the two races on Saturday. This might get the message across [to ARC] that this might not be the last time racing has low fields”.

Another trainer, Dean Ivory, said: “We can’t keep sending bills to owners after they have a winner and they haven’t covered this month’s training fees. It makes racing look a laughing stock.”

Owner Jo Hughes said he had already instructed “my five trainers who have 22 horses of mine to avoid all lower prize money races. Owners need to be supported not insulted in this ARC debacle”.

The reaction from ARC boss Martin Cruddace was that the protests would not change the group’s position and was, in fact, hurting rather than helping it.

“I’m anxious to work with other parties to find a resolution, but this resolution will not be that we pay £2.7m of our own money,” said Cruddace.

In December Cruddace revealed ARC would be cutting nearly £3m from contributions to prize money principally affecting the lower-grade races.

While the threat of boycotts is so far directed at racecourses belonging to ARC, Cruddace claimed other tracks would be forced to cut prize money themselves before long.

Meanwhile, Princess Lomita, one of 19 horses being offered for sale by the estate of the late Chris Gerber at Tuesday’s  Shongweni Sale in KwaZulu-Natal, will have increased interest among buyers by running fourth at Greyville on Sunday.

A daughter of Silvano from the same family as champion filly Princess Victoria, the three year-old is a one-time winner and should go on to better things.

There are some well-related fillies due to come under the hammer at 11am and one of the early lots is a daughter of Epsom Derby winner, Camelot. She has been consigned by owner Michael Leaf and has only run four times.

Another filly who should prove popular is Spring Poetry, also included in the Gerber draft. This daughter of Marchfield, trained by Lucky Houdalakis, has been the model of consistency and boasts two wins and 10 placings.