Royal Ascot prize fund almost halved despite six extra races

Meeting will be held behind closed doors due to coronavirus pandemic

All the Group One contests at this year’s Royal  Ascot will be run for £250,000 (€278,000). Photograph; Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

All the Group One contests at this year’s Royal Ascot will be run for £250,000 (€278,000). Photograph; Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

 

The huge impact that the two-and-a-half month suspension and the ongoing requirement to race behind closed doors will have on the sport’s balance sheet was underlined on Thursday with confirmation that the prize fund for this year’s Royal meeting at Ascot will be nearly 50 per cent below the total for 2019, despite six extra contests being added to the schedule.

There was £7.33 million (€8.15 million) on offer for the 30 races at the meeting 12 months ago with the prize funds for the meeting’s eight Group One events ranging from a minimum of £500,000 (€555,000) up to £750,000 (€835,000) for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. The total for this year’s meeting, which will open behind closed doors on June 16th, will drop by 49.8 per cent to £3.68 million (€4.1 million), with all the Group One contests run for £250,000 (€278,000).

There is a big drop too in the minimum prize at the meeting, with eight races due to be run for just £35,000 (€38,900) rather than the £90,000 (€100,000) which was on offer in 2019. The average value of a race at the meeting, meanwhile, will drop to just over £100,000 (€111,000) from £244,000 (€271,000) 12 months ago.

“2020 was set to be a landmark year for Royal Ascot prize money,” said Guy Henderson, Ascot’s chief executive. “However, these unprecedented times have intervened. We have sought to respond by producing an enhanced programme of racing this year to maximise opportunities to participate and which in its own way will deliver an exciting and memorable Royal meeting.”

With no revenue from ticket sales or hospitality, off-course betting will be essential to the success of this year’s meeting and six races on each of the five days will be broadcast live on ITV1.

A little over six weeks after the Craven meeting was due to open on the Rowley Mile, a 10-race card will launch the 2020 racing season at Newmarket and while the first half-dozen contests will not do much for betting turnover, they should prove highly significant when we get to Royal Ascot.

British Horseracing Authority (BHA) planners had the bright idea of asking trainers to nominate two-year-olds to have priority in elimination ballots over the first few days of the resumption to ensure they can get a run ahead of Ascot.

In all, 163 juveniles were nominated by 88 trainers, and around 50 are declared for one of the six two-year-old races. As a result, these half-dozen contests seem sure to be the hottest back-to-back sequence of novice and maiden events ever staged on a British track, and while only the reckless, the brave or the very well-informed will be betting on them, the form will be invaluable in a couple of weeks’ time.

In the handicaps at the end of the card, the prolific Ginger Jam (5.20) and Arbalet (5.55), who is having a first start for David O’Meara, should both go well at fair prices, while Zodiakos (2.45), who improved to win the first race back at Newcastle on Monday, should follow up under a penalty.

The best bet of the day, though, could be Buniann (5.05) in Newcastle’s sprint handicap. He showed improved form for a wind op to edge out the useful Klopp over track-and-trip in February, recording a decent time in the process, and looks over-priced at around 9-2. – Guardian

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