First published in European Trainer issue 58 - July - September 2017
The FRBC French Annual Review 2016-2017 shows that in 2016, the total distributed prize money in Britain, Ireland, France, and Germany was €528,357,185.
It’s interesting to note that in France (95%) in particular and in Ireland (65%), prize money is pretty much self-funded via racing organisations, which contribute only 48% to British prize money and as little as 4% to German prize money. The contribution from owners stands at 4% in France, 7% in Germany, 16% in Britain, and 23% in Ireland.
With prize money recognised as the lifeblood of racing, it’s interesting to see where it originates and even more interesting to see where it goes. In Issue 39 of European Trainer (Autumn/Winter 2012) we featured the distribution of prize money, jockey and trainer fees, and percentages. At that time there were 1,500 licensed trainers throughout Europe chasing 10% of winning prize money, from which further deductions in many cases brought that down to 7%.
The figures have changed little since, and it’s no surprise that the majority of trainers continue to survive largely on the trading of horses. Selling winning horses out of a stable can hardly be viewed as a sustainable business plan and it is never going to help trainers in the lower tier break through into the higher ranks when their best horses are sold and moved to other yards.
With so many relinquishing their licence each year due to rising costs and the inability to make training pay, there have been recent calls to put more in place to help trainers. Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) earlier this year launched a trainer marketing scheme to assist in attracting new owners, as well as the new “Experience It” campaign to provide potential owners with the experience of a day at the races as an owner. HRI also plans to assist in the collection of training fees to protect against non-payers.
Gaining new owners and ensuring that they pay is only half the battle, however, and the high-profile removal of Gigginstown Stud-owned horses from Willie Mullins has highlighted the problem of the fees themselves. Mullins is not alone in maintaining the same weekly fee for 10 years, and the example set by Gigginstown shows the dangers of increasing fees when that is no longer viable. Wages, insurance, utility bills, diesel, and feed and bedding prices have all increased during the past decade but most training fees have not, which means trainers have effectively reduced their fees each year.