First meeting of breakaway trainers’ body in the North
Aidan O’Brien is even money to break 14-year record of 25 Group/Grade One wins in calendar year
Capri (second right), ridden by Ryan Moore, winning the St Leger at Doncaster. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
A first meeting of a breakaway trainers’ body in Northern Ireland is scheduled to go ahead in Lisburn on Monday night.
The split with the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA) comes on the back of what has been described as widespread dissatisfaction with how that organisation has addressed concerns raised by trainers in the North.
They include long-running concerns in relation to pension arrangements for stable staff employed in Northern Ireland.
An old Turf Club-administered pension scheme which was wound up in 2010 did not benefit employees in the North despite trainers there paying into it under the same funding mechanism applied throughout Ireland.
Details of a new pension scheme are due to be rolled out later this month, with Horse Racing Ireland indicating a method of ensuring employees in the North receive the same benefits as those in the South can be achieved despite different employment laws applying in Northern Ireland.
Co Tyrone trainer Merevyn Torrens said on Sunday that details on the new scheme would have to be spelled out in “black and white” at a road-show event planned to take place in Newry on Thursday week.
However, he added that there was still unhappiness among many of his colleagues about how Northern employees did not benefit from racing’s old pension scheme, and how the IRTA responded to their concerns about it.
“People are very dissatisfied. We were told you’re in a different jurisdiction, good luck, we don’t want to talk about it anymore, go away,” Torrens said. “I don’t accept that we are a different jurisdiction. It’s supposed to be the island of Ireland as far as racing is concerned.”
Last week IRTA chief executive Michael Grassick insisted everyone qualified for payments was paid when the old pension scheme was wound up.
He said he had written to trainers in the North repeatedly about the matter, and added: “But because they didn’t want to hear what they were told that’s where we get the negative response.”
Torrens estimated up to 34 full-time and restricted trainers operate in the North, and “nearly all” are expected to attend Monday night’s meeting. He said the new body would try to address a range of issues.
“Northern Ireland is now one of the biggest arenas for point-to-point racing. There is a new series of races for horses bought at the sales for less than thirty thousand that haven’t won a point-to-point. Not one is at Down Royal or Downpatrick. Why not?”
In other news Aidan O’Brien is an even money shot to break Bobby Frankel’s 14-year-old record of 25 Group/Grade One victories in a calendar year.
The odds on the Irishman finally breaking a record he has repeatedly threatened in recent years were cut after Capri’s St Leger success at Doncaster on Saturday made it 18 top-flight winners for O’Brien so far in 2017.
Later on Saturday night Lancaster Bomber just failed to make it 19 for O’Brien when finding only World Approval too good in the Woodbine Mile in Canada.
In 2016 O’Brien saddled seven Group/Grade One winners from now until the end of the year, a list headed by Found’s memorable success in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The champion trainer has not ruled Capri out of a tilt at the Chantilly spectacular in less than two weeks time, where O’Brien’s 29th British classic winner could line up alongside his Irish Leger winning stable companion Order Of St George.
Enable continues to be hot favourite for the Arc, and she could again clash with Ulysses who chased her home in July’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
The Breeders Cup had been nominated by Sir Michael Stoute as a target for Ulysses when he won York’s Juddmonte International, but Paris looks to be on the four-year-old’s agenda first.
“The Arc is very possible, and we’re aiming for that at the moment,” Stoute reported. “The Breeders Cup is not until five weeks after the Arc, so there’ s plenty of time between both races.”
After an All-Ireland final day blank racing resumes with the start of Galway’s two-day September meeting on Monday, where Jaime Sommers can again live up to her illustrious pedigree.
The daughter of triple-Hattons Grace Hurdle winner Solerina has to concede weight all around in a mares’ hurdle but is officially rated to manage it.
She looked a different proposition when ridden patiently on her last start at Kilbeggan, which earned Michael Bowe’s runner a stone hike in the handicap.
Jaime Sommers has to concede a lot of weight to Willie Mullins’s Tramore winner Contingency, but regular rider Cathal Landers claims 7lb and the testing conditions should not be an issue.