he reserve fund available to tide horse racing through difficult times will be 40% lower at the end of the year than at the outset of the Covid-19 crisis, underlining the sport’s pressing need for the return of crowds. Reserves held at the Levy Board are expected to be around £30m by the end of December, having been around £50m back in March, according to the Board’s chief executive, Alan Delmonte.
“That shows you what’s happened to them in the nine months to the end of this year. That’s the sort of call that’s been made on them,” Delmonte told The Guardian. The Levy Board acted last week to shore up prize money for the last four months of this year, increasing its contribution to £26.6m, 50% higher than planned.
Levy Board reserves have fluctuated over the years and got as low as £15m in 2011, prompting a concerted effort to build them up again. “The highest that they’ve been in recent times is probably where they were just before Covid started,” Delmonte added.
Prudence is ingrained at the Levy Board and Delmonte was careful to say the new prize money commitment does not mean 31 December should be regarded as any kind of a cliff edge. But he acknowledged that things would become “very difficult” if the situation did not improve early in 2021.
“That figure of £30m sounds quite healthy but there’s a world of difference between £30m with the arrow pointing upwards and the same figure when the arrow’s pointing downwards. We’ve always said we don’t want to be in a position where we ourselves are starting to worry about where the next pound is coming from because the effect that that has on industry confidence is quite significant, so we don’t want to over-commit.”
Delmonte stated two things that must happen early next year: clarity from racecourses about what they can pay towards prize money as well as “a return to some sort of paying crowds on a sustainable basis, which helps to make the racecourse contributions possible”. He hopes the cancellation of last Saturday’s trial return of crowds at Goodwood will not mean a delay to the general return of crowds at sporting events, planned for October.
Betting turnover figures have been encouraging since racing resumed in June, Delmonte said. “But that can’t be assumed to continue, in an environment where we know that the furlough scheme is coming to an end in the autumn. You just don’t know what the effect will be on consumer spending and confidence.”
Wednesday’s horse racing tips
1.15 Templepark 1.45 Hiconic 2.20 Fukuto (nb) 2.50 Bootlegger 3.20 Pagero 3.50 Soldier Of Love 4.25 Peterborough 4.55 Ultimate Getaway
2.10 Tommy Tittlemouse 2.40 Afandem 3.10 Jungle Book 3.40 Sienna Dream 4.10 Proclaimer 4.40 Dandy Story 5.10 Ralphy Boy Two 5.40 Smart Lass 6.10 Absolute Dream
4.05 Publicist 4.35 Fromnowon 5.05 Daisy Duke 5.35 Exotic Escape 6.05 Brenner Pass 6.35 Dover Light 7.05 Sea Of Marmoon (nap) 7.35 Tindrum 8.05 Soramond
In the meantime, Delmonte is pleased the Board will help to get total prize money to about two-thirds of the normal level for the final third of the year. “No one is suggesting that’s enough in the longer term to maintain owner interest and confidence but that’s the sort of ball park that we’ve had in mind. If you get to two-thirds of the normal and you’ve managed to restore the minimum prize money values throughout the sport at every class except for the very top, which is 75% of the norm, that at least gives you something where you can say, there’s a structure, there’s an aspiration and people can see where we’re trying to get to.
“But that just buys you four months with the hope that things start to turn the corner in early 2021.”