Racing: Tote chief opposes BHB's bid

PETER JONES, the chairman of the Tote, yesterday urged the Government to sell the Tote to a trust representing a range of racing interests rather than handing it to the British Horse Racing Board. Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, announced his intention of privatising the Tote in May, after Peter Savill, the BHB chairman, had called for the firm to be placed in the hands of the BHB in January. But Jones, speaking at the Tote Annual General Meeting at the Savoy Hotel in London, proposed the Tote be sold to a trust representing the Racecourse Association, BHB, Levy Board and Tote board.

Jones said: "While I support the BHB's aims to put racing on a sounder financial footing, these aims would not be advanced by placing the Tote under the control of BHB. The Tote is a commercial organisation and must remain focused on producing long-term profits. The BHB has no experience as a body of running commercial enterprises and its Board members have no history in the management of operations of the complexity of the Tote. BHB would have areas of conflict of interests. It would seem inequitable for a body which governs racing, and may shape conditions which affect the operations of bookmakers, to be operating a business which competes with those bookmakers. We propose the Tote be acquired by a trust, the shareholders of which would be drawn from a spread of interests. The shareholder trustees would not be responsible for the operation of the Tote, but would appoint a management board which would be answerable to the trustees and the industry. The BHB should have representation and we would welcome the benefits its association would bring. But we believe the Trust should reflect other interests from within the sport."

Jones also opposed an open market sell-off of the Tote. He said: "The Tote was set up for the benefit of racing. We asked Price Waterhouse to look at a Tote sell-off and they concluded the final destination of the Tote would be another bookmaking group. Racing's income stream would enjoy protection but not move upwards as demands of outside shareholders would take precedence."

Straw said the Home Office have not yet reached a decision on a method of sale. Straw said: "Nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out."

John Heaton, the Tote's chief executive, warned of the impact of the bookmaker Victor Chandler's off-shore operation. Heaton said: "It is hard to compete with a three per cent deduction when ours is nine per cent. It is inevitable punters who get a free phone call to ring Gibraltar will do so. The threat of Ladbroke and William Hill to move off-shore should not be taken lightly. "

Meanwhile, the BHB was unanimous on moves to resolve the fixture list issues for next year at yesterday's monthly meeting. The BHB agreed measures to produce a fixture list for 2000 next month.

n Indigenous, the champion racehorse of Hong Kong, has been cut to 20- 1 from 33-1 by William Hill for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot a week on Saturday after working well.

n Bill Haigh, the trainer, was fined pounds 1,500, Jenny Benson, the apprentice jockey, was suspended for 10 days (22-31July ) and Champagne N Dreams was banned for 40 days (from Friday) under the "non-triers' rule after the mare was seventh in the 4.45 at Beverley yesterday.

n General Cloney (8-1) won the Ulster Harp Derby at Down Royal yesterday.

n Compton Admiral, winner of the Eclipse Stakes, goes for the Juddmonte International at York next month.

Juddmonte International: Coral: 4-1 Royal Anthem, 5-1 Almutawakel, 7- 1 Xaar, 8-1 Compton Admiral, 10-1 Alborada, Chester House, 12-1 Dubai Millennium, Golden Snake, Kissogram, Saffron Walden, 16-1 Insatiable, Salford Express, Great Dane, 20-1 others