DIXON DECLARES BOYCOTT A ' WAKE-UP CALL' FOR RACECOURSES
Jon Lees reports for the Racing Post Tuesday March 25th 2008:
Snowy scenes at Yarmouth on Easter Bank Holiday Monday (24.03.08) when its controversial low prize-money meeting was abandoned
RACEHORSE owners’ leader Paul Dixon yesterday said racecourses had been given a “wake-up call” by trainers’ action against prize-money at Yarmouth and warned of the possibility of further protests unless the issue is satisfactorily addressed.
Citing declining field sizes on the all-weather during the winter, Dixon said the Yarmouth protest was further evidence that the appetite of owners and trainers to compete for low purses was beginning to run out.
Profitable companies like Northern Racing could afford to contribute more to prize-money, he claimed, and that small fields would inevitably impact on the levy, which helps funds prize-money.
“People have started voting with their feet,” said Dixon, the Racehorse Owners’ Association president. “We have seen over the last few months how the field sizes on the all-weather have reduced dramatically. That’s because they have slashed the prize-money.
People are looking at this now and taking an economic view. That’s what the trainers did in this particular case. It wasn’t an organised action through the National Trainers’ Federation or the Horsemen’s Group. This was purely and simply about trainers who are very disgruntled about the prize-money and this was their way of showing it.
“Things like this are a bit of a wake-up call. Sometimes you need shock treatment to get these things into the public view, but I’m not saying this is the way to do it. I can’t see it being a one-off incident unless prize-money levels increase.”
Dixon was previously involved in an owners’ boycott over prize-money cuts at Wolverhampton some years ago, action that he said resulted in previous levels being restored.
He added: “ I understand that the likes of Arena and Northern have shareholders to please, but without runners they are not going to attract the racegoers and you won’t keep shareholders happy that way either.
“There is a fine dividing line between keeping shareholders happy by minimising prize-money and getting the quality and numbers you want. These boycotted races turn into a farce as a betting medium.
“I would urge all courses to look at prize-money levels and look at their forth-coming fixtures and make sure this doesn’t happen again. Their destiny is in their own hands.