An increased racing levy, a £10,000 incentive prize in eventing and tightened eligibility rules are among initiatives to increase funding for retraining and awareness of the ex-racehorse as the credit crunch bites.

About 2,000 horses come out of training annually and are increasingly hard to rehome, with the price of all riding horses dropping and warmblood influences preferred in most disciplines.

Consequently, over the winter, Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) — the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) own charity — has fought back with new measures for 2009.

RoR has set up a points series in eventing, polo and dressage, offering cash prizes of £10,000, £5,000 and £1,500 respectively, and they have changed the entrance criteria.

The classes used to be open to any thoroughbred who had been in training. But this year, only thoroughbreds who have raced may compete — to encourage amateurs who, particularly in showing, were demoralised by the dominance of professional producers.

RoR’s operations director Di Arbuthnot said this has resulted in record showing entries at Newark and Notts (27) and Royal Windsor (21).

“[Changing the entrance criteria] was a difficult decision, but we felt it served the best interests of the wider pool of riders whom we rely on to rehome ex-racehorses, and to justify these big prizes. The only way to validate that a racehorse has actually raced is by checking its records,” said Ms Arbuthnot.

RoR gives financial support to four official retraining centres — the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre (TRC), Greatwood, Moorcroft and HEROS (Homing Ex-Racehorses Organisation Scheme).

Ms Arbuthnot disagreed with BHA chairman Paul Roy, who believes more centres are needed, saying the way to encourage the rehoming of ex-racehorses is to make it more attractive to the public.

In the past, RoR funding has mainly relied on interest from two seven-figure capital donations from the late Paul Mellon and Sheikh Mohammed, but this too is reduced this year.

To compensate, from 1 May the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) has doubled the levy on entries for RoR to £1, which could yield up to £250,000 annually.

The levy increase will add about £20-£30 a year to an owner’s bill in the context of annual training fees of £20,000.

RoR chairman Peter Deal, himself an owner, said: “It is really very reassuring that owners are prepared to increase their support, and the ROA council agreed so readily, particularly in this current climate.”

• For more information about the new series, go to www.ror.org.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (7 May, ’09)