As some of you will know I received an email at 12pm yesterday to ask all trainers not to enter at ARC courses next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in protest of the cut in prize money.
I have been waiting for rain and watching all the weather sites like some mad amature meterologist (I actually think I may be a little obsessed...) and have found races for two of my soft/heavy ground horses who have been waiting for a run for ages at Fontwell next Wednesday. Now when I received the email I had just gotten off the phone after two hours of talking to my owners and telling 7 of them that we are going to Fontwell and listing the reasons why.
I then had to send them all an email asking them how they all felt about the boycott and told them I would be happy not to run and not to enter if that is what they wanted, all bar one of the owners have come back saying they are not interested in a boycott, they are in it for the horse and the fun of racing, they all knew that if they purchased a racehorse they would be writing that money off and any return was a bonus.
Now don't get me wrong, I would love higher prize money but when you are at the bottom end of the sport and training low grade horses, you know that it is rubbish. I own, on paper one of the horses down to run at Fontwell, i do have owners involved in him and I am letting the #TheseGirlsCan racing club have him as a replacement to their horse whilst he is off with a small injury.
I have waited months for this horse to be healthy, to get the right ground and to find the right race, last year his winnings kept me going financially and the the race I am entering at Fontwell is for £6200 to the winner, the race tomorrow he was entered in at Newbury same grade but the ground would be too quick, is for £4500 to the winner....Go Figure.
I had one of my owners point out to me that when she had a horse with me, she signed a contract with me to say that basically she employs me to train her horse. I have a duty of care to her and all of my other owners, she also pointed out that if I did not enter for Fontwell with her horse, she would be well within her rights to see advice with regards to maybe being in breach of contract. Please don't think badly of her, she was just stating fact.
There has to be another way for this to move forwards. Its all very well the big boys shouting and throwing their weight around, they are not in the precarious situation most small trainers are. I had a lovely trainers wife call me yesterday in a panic about what to do, they had identified a race for their lowly grade handicapper at Lingfield next week, having been balloted out numerous times, the owners were desperate for a run and there wasn't another race for a month. What should she do?
I also spoke to the wife of a trainer who completely supports the boycott, I explained that we are very ground/race/track dependant that we need to run when we can, she said "well you'll get soft ground again soon, they'll be other races" Seriously there aren't and we have already lost a week due to the bad weather and another 6 days to the flu. If we asked the flat trainers to boycott a flat meeting during the height of their summer after weeks of soft ground, with the weather just about to dry up, would they feel the same way? Likewise as someone pointed out on twitter, why don't they boycott the Winter Derby?
I may be being confrontational and maybe you think we should all stick together, however if lose one owner at the moment then I will be running at a loss. I have bills to pay, a child to clothe and bring up and will any of those saying we should all stick together come and muck out with me when I have to lay a member of staff off, or pay for my rent and business rates etc? No I didn't think so...
So going forwards I am not in any position to offer an alternative soloution to this situation, I do however feel that bullying and stamping our feet could cause more trouble down the line. But that is only a gut instinct and sometimes you need to listen to your gut...