TRC’s weekly industry digest - a round-up of international racing news from the past week.
It’s all looking good for Ascot
Europe: Ascot Racecourse released its 2017 financial results of a pre-tax profit of £6.2 million, which is up from last year’s £5.1 million.
The Berkshire course’s turnover was up 6.7 per cent due to a strong performance from admission and fine dining at Royal Ascot, improved returns from boxes and increased income from sponsorship and official supplier agreements such as Christy’s, St James’s Place, Pernod Ricard, Porsche and Cunard.
Guy Henderson, chief executive at Ascot, said: “Operational improvement and site maintenance remained a key focus for us last year and that continues to be the case.
“We have just embarked on an extensive ten year Planned Preventative Maintenance project, it now being 12 years since our £220 million redevelopment, under which mainly through our P&L we will be investing around an additional £2 million per annum into maintaining our core racecourse facilities.
“Prize-money, excluding the industry-owned Qipco British Champions Day in October, will increase by £1.2 million in 2018, and the continuing growth in our international reach and appeal is pleasing.”
North America: Gronkowski’s fine runner-up finish in yesterday’s Belmont Stakes was good news for private aviation company Sentient Jet, which has just announced sponsorship of the horse.
The Boston-based carrier is a long-time supporter of American Thoroughbred racing, previously lending its name to recent standouts Combatant and Tenfold. This weekend’s classic will be the Stateside debut for the Phoenix Thoroughbreds-owned horse, who missed the Kentucky Derby through illness when he was widely fancied to run well.
Gronkowski, who is named for NFL star and Sentient Jet cardholder Robert Gronkowski, had been trained by Jeremy Noseda until the owners removed all their horses from the Newmarket handler’s care last month. Chad Brown saddles the colt for his much-anticipated return to the track.
“We are thrilled to introduce Gronkowski to Sentient Jet’s elite family of hand-picked horses as we gear up for this year’s historic Belmont Stakes,” said Andrew Collins, president Sentient Jet.
‘Claiming handicaps’ being trialed
Europe: The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) will trial a new type of race, known as Optional Claiming Handicaps – a hybrid of handicaps and claimers.
Optional Claiming Handicaps are designed to help stimulate trade in a group of higher-rated horses that are less likely to attract interest from abroad and lack the stamina to appeal to the jumping market.
The ten-race trial in July is being pitched at horses rated in the 80s and 90s and will be contested over distances of 6f to 1m, each with a prize pot of £30,000.
Trainers will be able to ‘buy’ a handicap rating up to seven pounds lower than its published rating but, in doing so, they make that horse available to claim for a pre-determined price, which is in line with the reduced rating chosen.
Cracksman heads Cox Plate hit list
Oceania: the Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC) has published a 13-horse short-list of international invitees for the A$5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate, which takes place this year at Moonee Valley on October 27.
The race past 2000-metre race have been won by Winx, who has sidestepped a European date at Royal Ascot for a crack at a record fourth win.
Topping the list of G1 winners is Europe’s highest-rated horse in training, John Gosden’s Cracksman, while previous winner Aidan O’Brien received invitations for Saxon Warrior, Mendelssohn and Lancaster Bomber.
Second term for Rachel Hood
Europe: Rachel Hood, former president of the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), has been elected to serve her second term as mayor of the home of British racing, Newmarket.
Hood, the wife of leading trainer John Gosden, last wore the chain of office in 2014/15. She was elected with a clear majority over the only other candidate for the role, Mick Jefferys.
Collett past the post
Oceania: Samantha Collett's supporters will be receiving an early pay out. She is a runaway leader in the race for the New Zealand jockeys’ premiership and the TAB will be paying out all bets on her for the most wins for the 2017-18 season before the season ends.
After racing at Riccarton on Wednesday, Collett had ridden 114 winners to be 23 clear of her nearest rival, Chris Johnson, who will be serving a suspension from June 11 to June 21 inclusive.
Hayes the unanimous choice
North America: Ontario Racing (OR) has confirmed the full composition of its new board of directors. The first order of business was electing, unanimously, John Hayes as the independent chairman. Hayes most recently operated as a director at-large of OR, and the Canada native has held administrative positions with General Electric, Black & Decker and Home Depot in the past.
He also served as the gaming director of Ontario Lottery and Gaming, with operational responsibilities at Georgian Downs, Ajax Downs, Grand River Raceway, Woodbine and other racetracks across the province.
“I am honoured to be appointed to the Independent Chair of Ontario Racing,” said Hayes. “I have a passion for horse racing and am confident in the direction and approach of Ontario Racing. I look forward to working with the industry’s diverse group of stakeholders to create a sustainable future for the sport in Ontario.”
In addition, there are ten seats, five from industry associations and five from racetracks, on OR’s board.
Gardiner-Hill steps up
Europe: Dominic Gardiner-Hill has formally taken over as the BHA’s head of handicapping from Phil Smith, who is retiring after 23 years in the role.
Gardiner-Hill has been deputy head of handicapping for the BHA for the past decade and is approaching 25 years of service with the regulator.
As well as the day-to-day running of the department, he will be tasked with the implementation of an internal handicapping review, carried out last year by journalist and broadcaster Lydia Hislop.
Ice hockey star on big-race duty
North America: Woodbine Mohawk Park has announced Connor Carrick, Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman, as this year’s draw master for the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup for Standardbreds.
The post-position draw and media conference for the Pepsi North America Cup is scheduled for June 12 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.