Racing: Italy resists the plunder: Chris Corrigan on a threat of disunity in Europe as British stables complete another multi-million pound overseas haul

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The Independent Online
AS figures confirmed yesterday that British stables have won more than pounds 7.1m on foreign turf this year, there were growing signs that European racing's relative harmony is set for a rough ride.

Much of Britain's overseas haul, the second highest ever, was earned from the plunder of Italian prize money. But the racing authorities in Rome want to restrict future entries into many of their leading races. Proposed restrictions are to be put the European Pattern Race Committee's annual meeting on 18 December.

Paul Cole, with pounds 1.2m, heads Britain's overseas win-and-place prize money list for the third consecutive year, followed by John Dunlop's pounds 930,000. The impact of any end to the Italian free-for-all can be gauged from the fact that 10 of Dunlop's 13 winners abroad this year were in Italy.

Clearly the Italians feel their prize money - frequently far more generous than available here - is too vulnerable to foreign raiders. They therefore want approval to downgrade a large number of Group Three races to Listed class, and to then impose a complex set of entry conditions for these events. The qualifications, aimed chiefly at two-year- old races, would mean a runner must have won or been placed in a Group race; won an event of a high value; or at least have made its racecourse debut in Italy.

Mainly affected would be valuable races of the kind taken by Ancestral Dancer, a juvenile filly trained at Newmarket by Michael Bell. She completed a hat-trick of successes in Listed company in Italy during June and July this year, earning lira worth more than pounds 60,000. Had the proposed curbs already been in place, Ancestral Dancer would not have been allowed to compete. 'I think they are being very short-sighted,' Bell said. 'There should be no restrictions as it's my belief that healthy competition is good for the sport. The rest of Europe is opening up and the Italians want to shut themselves off.'

Similar opposition was expressed by Dunlop, whose haul of pounds 930,000 win and place prize money was the highest yet by a trainer who first started sending runners overseas in 1969 and remains one of the great exponents of challenging in top races abroad.

In 1991 his overseas runners accumulated total prize money of pounds 430,000 from six wins; the previous year it was pounds 659,000 from eight victories, and in 1989 pounds 865,000 from 13 winners.

'I have run horses abroad for many years, whenever the opportunity has arisen,' Dunlop said yesterday. 'I used to be in a minority but others have also realised the advantages of becoming more adventurous.

'The real reason why changes are being put forward in Italy is that they want to cut down the number of foreign runners in these races, and retain the prize money for Italian owners. But my view is that it is a short-sighted policy. Everyone should be allowed to run horses in these races.'

Paul Cole's Snurge could lose the pounds 280,000 first prize he won in October's Rothmans International at a hearing in Canada tomorrow. Connections of first-past-the-post Wiorno are appealing against the decision to demote him to third place. Snurge was placed first after being beaten half a length with the original third Ghazi also moved up a place. The stewards demoted Wiorno for causing interference to Ghazi. Although Snurge was not involved in the incident, jockey Richard Quinn is required to attend. If put back to second place, Snurge's connections would receive only pounds 93,000.

----------------------------------------------------------------- BRITISH TRAINERS - FOREIGN EARNINGS IN 1992 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Trainer Wins Places Prize money Paul Cole (Whatcombe) 7 27 pounds 1,207,847 John Dunlop (Arundel) 13 20 pounds 931,672 Clive Brittain (Newmarket) 6 11 pounds 782,252 John Gosden (Newmarket) 8 9 pounds 686,687 Richard Hannon (Marlborough) 7 12 pounds 586,639 Luca Cumani (Newmarket) 10 4 pounds 498,036 Peter Chapple-Hyam (Manton) 4 8 pounds 462,024 Henry Cecil (Newmarket) 4 5 pounds 412,217 Lord Huntingdon (East Ilsley) 6 9 pounds 227,901 Michael Stoute (Newmarket) 1 7 pounds 171,945 Michael Bell (Newmarket) 3 4 pounds 138,953 Geoff Wragg (Newmarket) 1 1 pounds 123,722 All prize money (win and place) is calculated on exchange rates given by the Jockey Club at start of this year ----------------------------------------------------------------- Source: International Racing Bureau -----------------------------------------------------------------