Racing: Savill adds to the mounting pressure on Wakeham

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A leading owner joins the criticism of Lord Wakeham's performance at the helm of the British Horseracing Board. Greg Wood reports

Lord Wakeham spent yesterday occupied by one of his (many) other duties, as head of the Press Complaints Commission, but in the racing world, the complaints were very much directed at Wakeham himself. Peter Savill, a major owner and a member of the British Horseracing Board, added his endorsement to criticisms made by Gerald Leigh, one of the country's leading owners and breeders. Support for the former Tory chief whip appears to be vanishing even faster than the Conservatives' majority on 1 May.

The latest dispute centres on a financial plan for the racing industry drawn up by a committee headed by Savill, and which the owner thought had been adopted by the BHB. Just days later, however, Wakeham referred to the report as a "wish list", much to the annoyance of both Savill and Leigh. It has also been widely leaked in advance of its expected publication date next week.

Yesterday, Leigh called on Wakeham to resign, saying that he had lost "the support of his board", and of "the broader racing industry". Savill did not go quite that far, but pulled up only a few strides short. "I'm not saying that he should resign at this point in time," he said. "I'm just saying that I'm not happy from the point of view of the financial plan, with the leaks and the discussions in the press. I feel it is unhelpful to the racing industry."

When asked who he blames for the leaks, Savill said that "everyone can draw their own conclusions. I think they were leaked deliberately with the intention to undermine what the review group was trying to do."

The annual Industry Committee Forum next Wednesday, which will at last bring Wakeham face to face with his detractors, now promises to be a lively event. A good thing too, perhaps, given that it will be held at the headquarters of BAFTA.