16 December 2015 – Racing Post
Arena Racing Company will boost prize-money levels for a raft of big races after Britain’s largest racecourse operator announced an increase of almost a quarter in its own financial commitment.
Arc’s 2016 executive prize money contribution will shoot up from £11.3million to £14m and, as a consequence, the 2016 Coral Welsh Grand National will be increased from£120,000 this year (having been £100,000 in 2014) to £150,000. The Betfred Midlands Grand National’s fund moves from £100,000 to £130,000 and Fontwell’s National Spirit Hurdle soars to £80,000 from £50,000.In addition, Newcastle will hold a £75,000 consolation handicap for those who fail to get into the John Smith’s Northumberland Plate, which next year will be staged on an all-weather surface for the first time.
Arc’s move, which comes hot on the heels of its decision to lead the way alongside Jockey Club Racecourses ill efforts to extract more offshore money from bookmakers, prompted glowing praise from Horsemen’s Group chairman Philip Freedman, who claimed the Reuben Brothers’ owned organisation now wants to be an “industry leader”. Freedman also praised Arc’s new chief executive Martin Cruddace, who has begun to reinvent the once frequently under-fire company, which last and others for failing to meet 2013 prize money forecasts when the now Hong Kong-based Tony Kelly was in charge.
The highly controversial decision to dig up Newcastle’s turf track has also strengthened the opposition of some trainers, owners and jockeys to Arc, but Newcastle was yesterday just one of the tracks that was highlighted as being set to receive a hefty prize-money injection. Arc is in a period of investment,” said Cruddace. “This includes a significant development to the facilities across our racecourses, including a new all-weather track at Newcastle, an improved turf track at Yarmouth, a new restaurant at Uttoxeter and a new grandstand at Bath. In addition, we are pleased to be boosting prize-money to support the race programme across our racecourses in 2016.
As part of the 24 per cent hike in executive contribution, jumping at Doncaster, Sedgefield, Newcastle and Uttoxeter will all receive prize-money enhancements, while Chepstow’s two-day October jumps festival, launched this year with a £250,000 pot, goes up to £300,000. A new summer series at Windsor, culminating in a £75,000 final on August 15, will be introduced, while the race programme at Yarmouth is to be amended in favour of juveniles through an improved programme of novice and maiden races.
“The increase in prize-money will ensure feature races have a prize fund to attract the top horses but also, crucially, there will be a significant increase in the number of races across Arc racecourses that are run above minimum value. Arc recognises the vital input owners, trainers and jockeys make to British racing and we’re playing our part in rewarding this by increasing our levels of investment and creating a series of compelling race programmes for all our customers.”
Arc’s decision was also billed as recognition of growing funding challenges due to projected falling levy returns. Cruddace added: “We’re very proud of the leadership we have shown with the authorised betting partner the commercially difficult decision to step up to the plate as and until our industry is able to properly capture the torrent of business migrating online.
Welcoming the news, Freedman said: “We’re delighted. We’ve had our differences with Arc, but the fact we’re seeing such a significant increase in prize money, together with the lead they are taking along with Jockey Club Racecourses on authorised betting partners, indicates they want to be an industry leader.”