MELISSA JONES SAYS: Give racing staff a break
2:05pm Friday 30th August 2013 in Sport
WE have become a greedy nation.
Stable staff, who work around the clock anyway, are facing the prospect of going racing on Good Friday from next year.
It is one of four racing-free days in the calendar, Christmas Eve being one of the others.
This plan, proposed by Arena Racing Company which owns Chepstow, would include a £1 million finale to the all-weather season at Lingfield.
To those of you who do not follow racing, it might seem ludicrous that trainers, jockeys and staff at many of the 558 yards across the country are against it.
But the date would clash with the well attended open days at Lambourn and Middleham, which give people a unique chance to see the racing yards and proceeds go to charity.
It’s also the case that lots of stable staff look forward to a break in the programme, as a day going racing normally involves an early start, hours of travelling and a late evening return home in a slow horsebox.
I say we have become greedy because this reminds me of when shopping was introduced on Sundays.
Christianity recognises it as a day of rest, and regardless of religion, staff at the tills also deserve a day off.
There never used to be racing on a Sunday either, until it was introduced in 1995.
I’m traditional and believe it should be a family day, and it begs the question whether there is a need for all this consumerism.
Unsurprisingly bookmakers, who are all about making money, are backing the proposals.
Betting shops have been able to one on Good Fridays in Britain since 2008 but there has been no horse racing for their customers to bet on.
So what? I hear trainers cry.
Derek Haydn Jones, who has sent 51 runners to race on Lingfield’s all-weather in the past five seasons from his yard in Pontypridd, said his wife managed a group of shops but she gave it up, as she never had a minute to herself.
He told me the same could be said for stable staff if they have to give up one of their only racing free days.
“They are in before the crack of dawn. On Good Friday, they come in, do their horses and have a short evening. My view is simple, there is enough racing as it is and staff work hard enough. They deserve this time off.
“You have all the Sunday racing going and now they are thinking about this. What they want to do is concentrate on getting prize money up at general fixtures.”
The news has provoked much debate on social networking sites, with @Rockybobby88 tweeting leading independent bookmaker Geoff Banks: “Sad seeing ‘racing professionals’ crying out for more racing. Lack of midweek quality & small fields does not help prize money!”
Caerwent’s Christopher Mason, who trains four horses in Caerwent and bred this year’s Stewards’ Cup winner Rex Imperator, said: “Racing needs to be more attractive to the average racehorse owner. They need to be able to cover their costs, if you come second or third you are barely breaking even.
“Taking £100,000 off one of the big races and splitting it between some 0-65 handicaps would make a big difference. We have Edged Out here, she’s a consistent little filly and has won about £6,5000 overall, it’s absolutely dreadful. It’s as much to keep a lesser horse in training than a good one.
Solving the money issue is not easy, but it’s important to note there is a greater number of lower grade horses in training than good ones.
Remaining on the financial front, I can’t see bookmakers raking in the pounds on Good Friday anyway.
There will always be people who will bet on racing, but at what cost is a trickle of punters heading though their doors to a few hours of respite for the lowest paid and valuable members of the racing community.
Workforces should be valued and I believe another full day of work for stable staff is just a kick in the teeth.
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