Bunhill: Racing ads clear the final hurdle

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The Independent Online
IF MARK TOMPKINS has his way, even the rumps of the horses on television will carry advertising. He is the first trainer out of the stalls a few days after the British Horseracing Board gave permission for horses and jockeys to carry sponsors' logos.

Tompkins has even issued a glossy brochure offering 'a new far-reaching concept in sports sponsorship with a guaranteed high profile, 'All Year Round' '. This is no gimmick: the 75 horses he trains include hurdlers and steeplechasers as well as flat racers. As Phil Green, one of his colleagues, puts it proudly, 'our unique selling point is to offer horses running the whole 12 months. We've got jumpers of some note, and not many yards offer number and quality of runners on both codes.'

Tompkins and Green have approached more than 250 companies with a wide range of options: names on saddle cloths, jockeys' silks, trainers' cars, horseboxes or wherever. They can even attract advertising from spirits companies, for the BHB bans only tobacco, breath-testing devices, the occult, private investigation agencies, and pornography.

Moreover, the owners are likely to be led in a docile fashion to the starting gate. The 1993 Budget gave VAT relief to owners on the money they spend on horses and training fees. But they have to convince Customs and Excise that their strings of nags are run as business propositions. If they're not actively seeking sponsorship, they could well have to repay the tax they have reclaimed.

(Photograph omitted)