The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that it plans to increase minimum prize money levels from September, with the appearance money scheme, designed to deliver more value for mid- and lower-tier trainers also set to resume that month.
From 1 September, minimum prize values will increase at all levels of British racing, with money for middle and grassroots tiers returning to the levels seen before the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic shut down events from 18 March.
For Class 1 and Heritage Handicap racing, the minimum prize values will grow to 75% of their pre-lockdown levels. This has been facilitated by additional funding from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB), as well as executive contributions from racecourses.
The HBLB had been spending 25% more on prize money since racing resumed in England on 1 June, but for the period from 1 September to 31 December, will now hike its contribution by 50%. This means it will contribute £26.6m over the four months, up from the original allocation of £17.7m.
“We are very pleased to have been able to agree another rise in our prize money allocation for the rest of 2020 at what we recognise as a crucial time for the sport,” HBLB chair Paul Darling said. “We intend that this substantial injection of funds will provide confidence and certainty.
“I would like to thank bookmakers generally, who have continued to provide us with timely payments on account, and in addition those operators who have shared with us weekly race by race betting data, allowing us to measure very quickly the performance of racing since resumption,” he added. “This has been key in supporting our modelling and given us the ability to take decisive action.”
BHA chief operating officer Richard Wayman added that the increase in minimum prize money was a “critical part” of the sport’s recovery plan.
“Owners have displayed great patience in recent months and it is crucial that prize money grows at all levels as quickly as possible,” Wayman said. “Whilst there is a long way to go, the increase in minimum values together with the re-introduction of the appearance money scheme are clearly steps in the right direction.”
In addition, the BHA will reintroduce its appearance money scheme, first launched in 2018, from the start of September. This is designed to improve the return to owners with horses competing in the middle and lower tiers, and will see horses that finish between fifth and eighth place receive £300 for flat racing, and £350 for jumps.
A trial will also be conducted for steeplechases, which will see payments made to the remainder of the field. This is subject to horses meeting minimum rating requirements, and aims to ensure adequate welfare funding for competitors. Further details are to be announced in due course.
The announcement of the increase in prize money and reintroduction of the appearance money scheme coincides with publication of the fixture list for September to December. This will see a maximum of five fixtures take place on any day, to ensure all Covid-19 safety measures are implemented in full.
Start times will be scheduled to avoid fixture clashes wherever possible, with participants permitted to attend only one meeting per day, and five floodlit fixtures added in November.
In total there will be 460 fixtures held over the four month period, up from 455 in the original fixture list for 2020.