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Will extra prize-money bring one more horse Cheltenham?

Earlier this month it was announced that the 2017 Cheltenham Festival will have record prize-money. An increase of £190,000 will take the total prize-money to £4,305,000.

The Arkle and the RSA Chase will both now be worth £175,00, an increase of £25,000. A total of 18 races have received a cash injection of £5,000.

What’s the point of that? Will the extra prize-money attract one more horse to the Cheltenham Festival that wouldn’t have otherwise have taken part?

Jockey Club Racecourses, who own Cheltenham, have so far this month staged races worth less than £3,250 to the winner at two of their other tracks, Huntingdon and Market Rasen. Why couldn’t they have spread that extra £190,000 across 190 of their races, making each worth an extra £1,000?

The answer to that question is it wouldn’t sound anywhere near so impressive. Therefore, it wouldn’t make news.

Last year, prize-money for Royal Ascot received a £1 million increase, with no race worth less than £80,000. I can see the logic in boosting prize-money for the Group 1 races in order to attract top overseas runners from America and Australia. However, that isn’t the case at Cheltenham because jump racing is almost non-existent in those countries.

Therefore, with so much money sloshing around at Cheltenham and Ascot, how can racing have a cash crisis? How can racing claim it needs more money from bookmakers?

What message does this convey?

It implies that racing is in very good condition. Thus, it sends the wrong message to the non-racing world. It doesn’t convey is that horses at the bottom end of the racing scale are still racing for relative peanuts. It’s all about the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

If Cheltenham had not increased the money by a single penny they would still get exactly the same horses. Prize-money needs to be more evenly distributed. But where’s the kudos in that?


About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including 'A Long Time Gone', chronicling Britain's lost racecourses, and 'Go Down to the Beaten', stories of jockeys who didn't win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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