British Jocks Canvassed On Sunday Evening Racing

Questions over whether it's the right thing to do

Wolverhampton hosted the first of six trial meetings in January (Pic -Wolverhampton Racecourse)

More than a third of jockeys said they would not support the continuation of Sunday evening racing, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA).

Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, the BHA’s chief operating officer Richard Wayman said the sport’s leaders would not face an “easy decision” on whether to continue with the initiative after receiving feedback from a number of industry bodies. The PJA survey received 112 responses, including from 72 jockeys out of a possible 103 who competed at one of the six pilot meetings, the last of which took place at Southwell on March 10.

The Racing Post reports that more than three-quarters of respondents said they had no choice over whether to ride at the six fixtures, while 37 per cent said they categorically did not support a continuation of the trial.

Asked which, if any, conditions would needed to support the continuation, 22 per cent said jockey payments, enhanced prize-money and staffing solutions would all have to be in place.

On the enhanced prize-money offered at the six fixtures, 37 per cent said it did not impact their view on riding at the meetings, 40 per cent said it had some impact and 23 per cent said it had made a significant positive impact.

The survey also asked for any additional comments on the trial and the PJA reported that 68 per cent of the responses were negative, 27 per cent were neutral and five per cent were positive.

Richard Wayman: “We’re pulling together the relevant bits of information, including from the betting industry, so we’ll have a clearer view of how successful the six fixtures were financially”

The PJA response comes after the chief executive of the National Association of Racing Staff (Nars) George McGrath said the continuation of the fee for stable staff working at the meetings was “non-negotiable” if they were to be permanently added to the calendar. The BHA, which was targeting an increase of 15 to 20 per cent in betting turnover for the meetings compared to floodlit midweek fixtures, has also received feedback from the National Trainers Federation (NTF).

“We’re in the process of reviewing the six fixtures,” said Wayman. “We’ve received the survey responses from the PJA, Nars and NTF. I don’t suppose anyone will be particularly surprised that the prospect of Sunday evening racing didn’t receive glowing endorsements from those effectively on the frontline. Having said that, the reason for the six-meeting trial was to answer the question of whether it was a significant opportunity for British racing that we’re missing out on.

“We’re pulling together the relevant bits of information, including from the betting industry. We’ll hopefully receive the betting data for March’s fixtures in the next few weeks, so we’ll have a clearer view of how successful the six fixtures were financially. Then the sport’s leaders will have a decision to make. If we stage any more fixtures that would be in the autumn so there’s time to decide whether we want to extend the trial, but it will not be an easy decision.”

On the reception of the pilot fixtures, Wayman added: “There’s some reluctance from those serving the fixtures and questions over whether it’s the right thing to do. I was at a number of meetings myself and have heard some of the feedback. I should say that some of that feedback was positive, including from owners who liked the opportunity to watch their horses run when they were not working.”

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