The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) is to increase the amount of prize money on offer during the first 10 weeks of UK horse racing when the sport returns in June, to help offset money lost during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) enforced suspension.
Total prize money will amount to £16.4m (€18.4m/$19.9m), up 23% from the same period last year. This will comprise £15.7m in core prize funds and £1.8m split between the Plus 10 bonus initiative and the Mare Owners’ Prize Scheme.
The HBLB said the increase reflects its desire to provide reward for racehorse breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys and stable staff, given the lack of activity during the period of suspension.
“We recognise the importance of providing over and above contributions to prize money when racing resumes and are pleased to have been able to meet racing’s requests in full,” HBLB chairman Paul Darling said. “Giving a commitment for 10 weeks allows the sport to make detailed plans.”
This week, the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) Executive Committee said it was working on plans to restart racing on 1 June, after new government guidelines confirmed this as the earliest date from which sports events may be held.
Sport can return without spectators from 1 June, provided certain conditions are met to ensure the country-wide lockdown enforced as a result coronavirus can be eased.
The BHA had initially planned to recommence horse racing in May, with all races having been suspended since 18 March due to the pandemic. The UK entered a state of lockdown on 23 March.
To support the increase in prize money, the HBLB said all major bookmakers in its Betting Liaison Group agreed to make available confidential reports on race-by-race turnover and gross win on a weekly, rather than a monthly, basis.
The HBLB said these regular reports would help it in determining its funding programme beyond the first 10 weeks of the resumption of racing.
“While we start from a position of having enough cash reserves to meet these requests, our expenditure in this period will almost certainly exceed our income,” Darling said. “HBLB is already expending over £2m a month in maintaining pre-existing grants to various areas, which will continue in addition to the prize money expenditure announced today.
“I would like to thank all those bookmakers that have undertaken to restart their monthly payments on account to us in May. The knowledge that there will be a significant inflow of cash has given us greater assurance in agreeing to the additional sums for prize money.
“Our funding commitment in turn helps the betting industry as racing can now put in place an appropriate race programme.”
Last month, the HBLB and the Racing Foundation also jointly pledged £22m in emergency support to the British horseracing industry to help it to manage the coronavirus pandemic.
The HBLB’s funds will mostly go to racecourses, which will receive £13.5m, while £8m from the Racing Foundation will be used for “hardship issues faced by racing’s participants, both human and equine”.
Day after this announcement, the HBLB released £6.5m worth of capital credits to British racecourses to help them with cash flow during the ongoing crisis.
Under normal circumstances, racecourses can elect to waive the receipt of grants such as those for prize money from the HBLB. These funds are then held by HBLB so that racecourses can make use of them as capital credits for use on improvement projects approved by the HBLB.
However, because of the impact the virus has had on the racing industry, the HBLB allowed racecourses to request the funds for non-capital spending.