The final race at Worcester tonight will end in a walkover as frustrated trainers take action over the levels of prize money on offer.
Twelve horses were originally declared for the partex-direct.co.uk novices hurdle scheduled to go off at 9.10pm but in a drastic move only one horse will race.
The protest has been organised by Charlie Mann and includes some of Britain’s leading national hunt trainers including Jonjo O’Neill, Donald McCain, Nicky Henderson, David Pipe, Alan King and Philip Hobbs.
The trainers are taking action because the prize money falls £900 below the minimum threshold set out by the Horsemen’s Group. Course management were notified of the decision to target the race last week but failed to inject the extra funds.
Originally the trainers planned to boycott the race completely but now 11 of the 12 horses entered will be withdrawn and the Nigel Twiston Davies trained Moulin De La Croix will be the only runner left in the race. The trainers will either split the total prize fund of £3000 between them to cover the fines they will incur or donate the money to charity.
Speaking to the Times, Mann said: “Twenty-two trainers, including all the top names, agreed to the boycott. I have been delighted by the response and we have all entered decent horses on the basis that they will not take part.
“We had planned a similar boycott at Fontwell recently but they acted to get the race concerned up to tariff, so we didn’t do it. Worcester only had to put up an extra £900 to avoid this.”
Ian Renton, the managing director of the track’s owners Arena and Northern Racing Group, does not agree with the course of action the trainers have chosen to embark upon.
“It is disappointing that trainers have targeted such a well-meaning course which is doing all it can in the circumstances. Since the downgrading of the levy in 2009, Worcester has suffered a 60% reduction in daily contributions. We have put virtually all our income into prize money and we aim to meet the tariffs in all races next year.”
Mann added that trainers are struggling to survive in the current economic climate and the poor levels of prize money on offer in the vast majority of races run in Britain is adding to their financial difficulties.
“The general public probably don’t think there’s much of an issue because they only see the big races where the prize money is fine. We need a decent return because without owners and trainers there is no product.”
Mann also warned that further action is possible if the situation is not resolved.
“Bookmakers’ profits are at an all-time high yet without us they don’t have a product. This could have been avoided for the sake of €900 so we hope it has a big impact. We will do it again next week if we have to, we’re sticking together 100% on this. It is not as much as an issue on the Flat because Sheikh Mohammed basically said he wouldn’t enter his horses in races that fell below tariff.”