So I have already done my blog for this week/month this morning but for some time I have been wanting to write about the state of racing and my thoughts a views - for what they are worth - as a small trainer with average horses and the effects of low prize money and staff shortages and the real reason we are in crisis.
About a year ago I was contacted by a lady from a market research company who had been hired by the BHA (at a vast cost I would imagine) to conduct a survey amongst trainers with regards to the staffing crisis in racing. Some of the questions ranged from "how many staff do you employ" to "where do you advertise for staff" with various other inane ones like, "how many do you need at different times of the year", I say inane because the answers to these questions mean nothing without first addressing the issue of:
Why are so few people getting into racing and why are so many older people getting out of racing? Surely these are the fundamental questions that should have been asked???
So next the BHA did a report on Staff in racing you can read an outline of the drivel they came up with here:
Onto the staff "crisis", seriously what on earth were the BHA thinking by spending a fortune paying some useless market research company to basically come up with rubbish answers that don't even get to the crux of the problem???
What other industry has staff that are expected to work a 13.5 day fortnight??? What other industry expects it staff to start work at 6am, finish for a break at 12 (if they have enough staff to get done by then) and come back to work at 4 and finish at 6? What other industry has so many race meetings at weekends and evenings in the summer, some staff are never able to see their families????
The hours are rubbish, the pay is worse and the attitude of the upper echelons is disgraceful. The pay scale is not great but actually I was going to have a massive rant and having done my homework, it is in line with places such as Sainsburys and Tesco. The difference is the unsociable hours both ends of the day in racing. Staff do not want to be doing the hours and it is worse than it used to be due to the huge amount of meetings we are expected to run at if there are suitable races.
The big trainers are the most at fault, yes you guys who are charging £70 plus a day per horse, you pay your staff less than I do as a rule and you don't give them any incentives, no afternoon off, no day off a week, and why? "But we've always done this, that's how racing works" no it bloody doesn't have to, get organised and think of the people who keep you going, you won't get very far with no staff...
People do not want to work weekends anymore too, why would they? Most have families, girlfriend/boyfriends etc, missing out on quality time with their families is hard and shouldn't be happening, what are we working for? Oh yes to pay our bills and taxes.
SO the smaller the trainer the less we can charge, the less we can spend on horses, the less we can win, the less our owners get back and the less we can pay our staff. Hence how hard it is to get good staff a keep them - who wants to work for a small trainer with average horses? Even paying more than the big trainers in the area and giving more time off is no guarantee.
Finally the last problem the BHA' s dynamic marketing people came up with is lack of training within the industry. I agree, I teach my staff everyday and try to let them get involved with whatever they want to learn. However the attitudes of the young these days are not something I thought I would ever see, finally I have people who want to learn but far more would rather go down the "its not fair", "noone ever gives me a chance", "its too hard" or "I can't be bothered" route...
So in defence to all of those trainers who are paying the minimum and not giving on the job training, I can see why you are reluctant to make the effort. However something has to give because we are in a real mess if a solution is not found.
Racing is also in crisis due to the small trainers struggling to make a living, as a small trainer who has to work harder to attract staff and owners, I think I am well qualified to discuss and put forwards my views.
Small Trainers cannot charge what it is costing them to train horses. Fact.
I charge less than most of Lambourn, probably by about £2 a day, I will be putting my prices up for next season because its just not economically viable to run at a loss all of the time, however I am lucky in that I do not have to pay full market rent and I still struggle to cover all costs and bills, I also have a partner who has his own business and we split everything 50/50. I do not have to fully support our family, again if I did then we would not survive.
I have been slated by various small trainers because I give my staff a day and a half off a week and pay over and above the set scale for racing. "Bloody Jo Davis gives her staff too much time off and pays too well, makes the rest of us look bad". You know who you are, what right do you have to judge me? I'm sure many of you trainers out there do deals on your rent with you landlords, but that's your business isn't it? How you spend what you save is your choice, I choose to pay my staff properly.
The reason I feel bad putting my prices up are as follows:
a. My horses are average but owned by lovely people who, on the whole keep horses because they love racing and not because they are wealthy.
b. The horses may finish in the frame more often than not, but the prize money is so bad it doesn't even cover the days racing some days, or a month's training fees.
c. I am embarrassed by charging more due to the dreadful return on owner gets even if he wins two average races in a season.
Ok, so there will be many of you that say "an owner shouldn't have horses if they want to earn money". Agreed in principle but have you seen the prices at the sales this week? £250k for a gelding to go jumping, £700k for a 2 year old breeze up horse, I could go on...Fine we know that most of the prices are false and the genuine sales are to the owners who like paying that kind of money, the rest are bloodstock agents and consignors, inflating the market so that the big owners think that is the norm, again fine for them but then what happens to the bottom and middle owners and trainers? They can't buy anything, literally horses that should only be worth £10k are now suddenly £35k and above and so it goes on.
SO now an owner is forced to pay more money (due to the dishonesty of the industry) to own a horse that is decidedly average, that must compete against decent expensive (£250k) horses on a daily basis, for prize money that is dreadful and means nothing to the people who are genuinely paying the £250k, because they can afford to pay it and don't need the prize money!!! There was a chase a few weeks ago that was running for less than it ran for 18 years ago, work that out.
So now we come on to the government who have promised the racing industry that they would make sure that all the bookmakers who have buggered off to go offshore and pay next to no tax, are going to have to pay more levy. Hahaha stop whilst I pick myself off the floor and stop laughing, that is the biggest joke of the lot because the bookies have politicians and various people in racing are so far in their pockets, i'm surprised they will ever be able to climb out.
Here is a breakdown of the levy contributions since 2001
You will be interested to see that the levy is at its lowest since 2001, what chance have we got to entice owners into a sport that costs a fortune, involves animals that very injury prone, that have to be treated by vets, who cost a lot of money and trained by trainers who have massive overhead and staffing costs, with absolutely no return unless they are running at the top of their game?
We should be like the French with the Pari Mutual, they don't have any bookmakers and put all the money back into racing, why don't we do that? - oh yes we could of but we sold the Tote...Wasn't that a good idea? NOT, seriously who thought that one through?
There has to be a way to boost prize money, stop the inflation of sales prices and lastly but most importantly look after and encourage our staff to enter into and stay in the industry more. Oh look every problem is related to the other, who knew it was one big industry...?