The weekly TRC industry digest - a round-up of the international racing news from the past week.
Royal Ascot forced to slash purses
Europe: Prize money for Royal Ascot, which will take place without spectators the week after next (June 16-20), has been cut by more than half because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Total purses at the newly formatted 36-race meeting (30 in regular years) will be £3.68 million. All eight G1s will be run for £250,000 and no race on any of the five days will be worth less than £35,000.
The total prize money was to have been $8.095 million, headed by the Wednesday Prince of Wales's Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on the Saturday at £1 million each.
Ascot chief executive Guy Henderson said, “2020 was set to be a landmark year for Royal Ascot prize money. However, these unprecedented times have intervened. We have sought to respond by producing an enhanced programme of racing this year to maximise opportunities to participate and which in its own way will deliver an exciting and memorable Royal Meeting.
“Some 70 percent of our annual income comes from public admissions, including hospitality, and producing in excess of £3.5 million in prize money in the current circumstances would not have been possible without the support and commitment of our wonderful official partners Qipco and Longines, for which we are all deeply grateful and express our sincere thanks on behalf of everyone involved.”
UK resumption goes well for British bookies
Europe: British racing resumed behind closed doors on Monday after a 76-day lockdown with a ten-race card on the Tapeta surface at Newcastle in the North-East of England.
In reality, it was little more than an average weekday meeting, although a possible Epsom Oaks contender did emerge in the ninth race, a ten-furlong maiden contest, in the shape of the John Gosden-trained Frankel filly Frankly Darling. Newcastle is not normally a nursery for potential Classic hopes, but Gosden did introduce the great Enable to the sport back in 2016, when she won there on her debut.
Yet the meeting attracted much mainstream media interest as it was the first sporting action in the UK since the lockdown began. The main takeaway from the day was the level of online wagering activity as bettors rushed to take advantage of the first live action since March. Betting firms reported turnover was up on a typical Monday, further boosted by the two French Guineas being run that afternoon at Deauville.
A spokeswoman for betting giant Ladbrokes told the Racing Post, “The return of British racing has been welcomed with open arms by our regular racing customers and has proved just how much people have missed live sport. Turnover levels were decent and higher than we’d expect for a normal Monday.”
Betfair told the Post, “The Betfair Exchange matched volumes were very strong with an average of around £1 million matched per race. As you can imagine, for a Monday in June that represents a sizeable increase on the usual level of activity for a similar card pre-lockdown.”
Although racing’s share of the UK wagering market has been falling in recent years, the sport is hopeful the current situation will lead to a longer-term increase in trade. Pat Cooney of online firm bet365 said racing was “certainly not a forgotten product”.
Baffert ‘getting to know’ Maximum Security
North America: Saudi Cup winner Maximum Security had his first workout for trainer Bob Baffert at Santa Anita on Monday after being moved from the care of Jason Servis, who has been charged with administering illegal substances to some of his runners.
“We’re getting to know him,” said Baffert. “He’s a classy horse. He worked by himself. I’m getting him used to the way I do things.” He added, “He came in a very healthy horse,” Baffert said. “He’s a beautiful horse, stout. We haven’t had any issue with him at all.”
NSW purse levels restored from July
Oceania: Prize money for New South Wales Thoroughbred races will be restored to pre-Covid-19 levels from next month with the state’s feature spring race dates also locked in.
Racing NSW has confirmed prize money levels for spring feature races will be maintained with this year’s The Everest to be run for $15 million while the Golden Eagle (1500m) remains at A$7.5 million in its second year.
Prize money levels for NSW races across the board were reduced in April until the end of the Australian financial year (June 30) because of the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The stakes for races of $100,000 or more were reduced by 20 percent while NSW races between $25,000 and $100,000 were reduced by 10 percent.
South Korea beckons for Imperial Hint
North America: Imperial Hint, one of the fastest sprinters in the U.S. over the past couple of seasons, has been retired and may take up stallion duties in South Korea, although no deal has yet been agreed.
The 7-year-old son of Imperialism, trained by Luis Carvajal Jr, won three G1s, two at Belmont Park and one at Saratoga, and was second in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar and third in the 2019 Golden Shaheen in Dubai. His last run was in the Saudia Sprint on the Saudi Cup card at Riyadh. He started odds-on favourite but finished last.
Ellis ‘humbled’ by Queen’s Birthday Honour
Oceania: Leading New Zealand racing figure David Ellis, who received the Outstanding Contribution to Racing Award in 2017, has added further distinction to his lifetime of work within New Zealand’s Thoroughbred racing industry with his appointment as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Honours List.
“It’s very humbling and somewhat overwhelming to be honoured by your Queen and country, that’s for sure,” said the boss of Te Akau Racing.
“My grandfather received the equivalent honour [CBE] for services to the business community 52 years ago and my father was also honoured with the Queen’s Service Order [QSO] for services to the community in 1991.”
Ellis is a Thoroughbred breeder, buyer, owner, syndicator, administrator, sponsor, stud master, punter, and operates premiership-winning stables in two countries – New Zealand and Singapore - with an increasing presence planned for Australia in the spring.
He is a passionate promoter of New Zealand Thoroughbreds and the NZ brand and contributes immensely to his local area, Te Akau, especially supporting young farmers with advice and guidance. He is also co-patron with his wife Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM of Riding for the Disabled (RDA Hamilton).
Elsewhere in racing ...
North America: Jockeys in New York ‘took a knee’ in the parade ring at Belmont Park before racing on Wednesday in solidarity with peaceful protesters against discrimination across the U.S. and beyond. After an 80-day hiatus, racing is the first professional sport to resume in New York after the shutdown. The jockey colony also stood in the paddock for a moment of silence in honour of those who have died from Covid-19 and to pay tribute to those working on the front line. More here
North America: Live pictures of races from Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct, the three tracks operated by the New York Racing Association (NYRA), will not be available on the TVG network this year for the first time in 20 years. More here
North America: 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Sharing is an intended runner in the G1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 20, where she will be taking on some of the best 3-year-old fillies in Europe. The Graham Motion-trained daughter of Speightstown returned to action with a half-length win at Churchill Downs last month.
North America: Racing returns to Woodbine Mohawk Park and Woodbine Racetrack this weekend, as horse racing continues to be the first major sport to return to live competition in Canada. More here