Racing week: Royal Ascot at York

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  • The journey to York has clearly not put off many racegoers as record crowds of 50,510 attended Ladies Day yesterday at the royal meeting. This was the first time that York racecourse has had such a high attendance. Ladies Day attracted around 69,000 racegoers at Ascot last year.

    However, jockeys have been less positive about the move, with mixed opinions over the ground – a debate that has plagued York previously. Rain on Wednesday, after a long period of dry weather, made the home bend slippery and led the course to apply sand to the surface to improve the grip.

    The Queen’s hat was the cause of a bad day for the bookies on Ladies Day after it appears to have leaked out that she would be wearing brown. Bookmakers suspended betting after receiving a flood of bets for the colour. Initially available at odds of around 12-1, odds tumbled to 8-11 in just two hours.

    A good week for . . .

    Channel 4, which has finally agreed a deal of just over £4 million to continue its TV broadcasts of British racing. The one-year deal was struck on Wednesday with the Tote and a group of racecourses. The Tote has put up £3m, while a further £1m is due to come from the Levy Board. Betfair offered an additional £150,000. As part of the deal, the tracks involved are waiving the £800,000 rights fees which they normal receive from the broadcaster. The deal covers 74 days of racing, including all Saturdays.

    But a bad week for . . .

    Racecourses, which have been criticised for their funding of prize-money. According to official figures, tracks’ contributions, including sponsorship, to purses fell in 2004 as a percentage of total prizes. Northern Racing, Arena Leisure and Racecourse Holdings Trust contributed 7%, 8% and 35% of the purses they offered in 2004, compared with 24%, 17% and 43% in 2003. Prize-money per runner at all 59 tracks was £5,512, down from £5,554 in 2003, despite a 6.5% rise in overall prize-money.

    Over the water

    The American super horse Ghostzapper has been retired to stud after suffering a hairline fracture of the sesamoid bone. The five-year-old US Horse of the Year suffered some filling of the fetlock after winning a Grade 1 race on 30 May. Veterinary investigations located the damage to the bone and the decision was made to retire the stallion to stud.

    Website of the month

    The BHB’s Retraining of Racehorses organisation has managed plenty of good work to date, using donations wisely in helping fund three rehabilitation centres. Now you can give to this worthy cause by logging on to www.ror.org.uk/donate, and help fund the work that seeks good homes for the 4,000 or so racehorses which are retired every year.

    To be reviewed

    A review of jockeys’ suspensions is under way that could eliminate cases such as the three-day ban incurred by Johnny Murtagh that would have denied him the winning ride on Motivator in the Derby had he not successfully appealed. The Jockey Club is considering whether to double the two-day threshold to bans that can be deferred if it means the jockey misses a Group One race.

    Record membership

    The Racehorse Owners’ Association (ROA), has reported a record membership of more than 7,100. Chief executive Michael Harris attributed this to an increased number of new owners who registered with the association at the current cost of £140 a year. The ROA will continue to target non-ROA owners, who enjoy a “free ride”, according to Harris, from the association’s work.

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