Boost in prize money is welcomed

Tony McCoy (centre) riding Southfield Royale (left) beats Coologue ridden by Noel Fehily at Fontwell. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Tony McCoy (centre) riding Southfield Royale (left) beats Coologue ridden by Noel Fehily at Fontwell. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
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AN overall prize-money boost of £5m has been announced by the British Horseracing Authority after deciding how to use the additional voluntary contribution made by bookmakers.

A £4.5m contribution from William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Betfred, along with a £500,000 payment from the Levy Board, will be used to try to help deliver a more competitive British racing product and achieve growth in the levy.

This newly-created incentive fund was agreed as part of the 53rd levy scheme and was on top of their statutory payments, which also offered guaranteed minimum levy contributions.

The funds from the scheme will be utilised as of December 1 and will cover a 13-month period.

BHA chief executive Paul Bittar said: “It is essential for the long-term prosperity of the sport that the racing product which we deliver is attractive to both domestic and international customers.

“It is for this reason that we recently announced a series of race-planning initiatives to tackle the issue of small-field races, and why it was agreed from the outset between racing and betting that this was the correct use for the AVC (Additional Voluntary Contribution) Fund. We are thankful to the four firms for their commitment in this regard.

“Racing and betting are symbiotic industries, and at the heart of this agreement was the philosophy that we are better off aligning our efforts to make the racing product more compelling and competitive, year round.

“We hope that this targeted investment ensures the contribution to this scheme by the four bookmakers generates returns to the racing and betting industry which outweigh the level of investment.”

Extended provision of prize-money and a series of enhanced prize-money races on a Sunday are the mechanisms chosen to distribute the fund.

Bittar said: “The process of developing and agreeing the mechanisms for the use of the fund has been a lengthy and complex one, involving consultation across the racing industry and extensive discussions with the bookmakers and the Levy Board.

“However the agreed solution has been achieved with support and buy-in from all parties as the best use for the AVC Fund.”

Yesterday’s action saw Tony McCoy waste no time in getting back amongst the winners after a three-week lay-off with victory on 2-1 chance Southfield Royale at Fontwell.

McCoy showed no rustiness nor lack of fitness after recovering from rib and shoulder injuries as he gave the Neil Mulholland-trained four-year-old a typically strong ride to land in the Free Tips At Novices’ Hurdle, beating 1-2 favourite Coologue in the process.

However, despite taking his tally for the season to 153 on his only ride of the day, the 19-times champion jockey believes the dream of reaching 300 winners by the end of the campaign is out of the question.

“You can’t afford to miss any days and it’s impossible to ride 300 winners now. You’ve got to accept the fact,” said McCoy.

“You’ve just got to ride as many as you can and hopefully some good ones along the way.

“I’m very lucky, I’ve had a lot of good people looking after me.”

McCoy’s next ride is on short-priced favourite Jollyallan in today’s opening race of the three-day Hennessy meeting at Newbury.

Later on today’s Newbury card, trainer Alan King expects Carraig Mor to cope with testing ground in the Grade Two bet365 Novices’ Chase.

Just three horses have been declared for the three-mile heat, but Carraig Mor faces a formidable rival in Southfield Theatre, who is unbeaten in two starts over fences, including in the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton. But King said: “While he is wrong at the weights with Southfield Theatre, in a race which has cut up to three runners, he should go through the ground as it was very soft when he won in such good style over hurdles at Uttoxeter early last season.”