Racing boycott sees fields slashed in Britain
Lingfield will see just 17 runners over six races on Wednesday
Fontwell and Southwell are the latest tracks to be hit as trainers appear to have followed through on their threat of further boycott action against Arena Racing Company-owned venues. A total of 17 runners will contest six races at Lingfield on Wednesday with Fontwell attracting just 27 runners for six cards. Southwell’s six events on Thursday have drawn just 20 contenders.
Trainers had signalled their intention to take action over three days this week as they continue to battle with ARC over the operator’s decision to cut back on its contributions to prize money at its 16 tracks nationwide. It was announced in December that changes would be made as ARC prepares for an expected shortfall in the levy because of anticipated betting-shop closures following the Government’s decision to lower the maximum FOBT stake from £100 to £2.
This decision has been met with dismay by many trainers, owners and jockeys, and the situation came to a head last month when two races at Lingfield were boycotted - with no runners declared in one and Nick Littmoden’s Greybychoice enjoying a walkover in another.
Another race at Sedgefield on Sunday was reduced to a walkover, but there appeared to have been a positive development on Saturday evening when ARC and the National Trainers Federation issued a joint-statement - in which ARC committed to unlocking extra funds for all eligible races in March.
That announcement came after entries were made for Lingfield’s Wednesday fixture, with 40 possibles duly reduced to just 17 runners at Monday’s declaration deadline. Only five jockeys are prepared to ride on the card, with a number of riders issuing a rallying call as they throw their weight behind the protest.