Several of racing's different financial facets were in evidence yesterday. It was confirmed that the publication of next year's fixture list has been delayed due to uncertainty over the level of funding for the sport provided from the Levy on betting turnover, a knock-on effect of sea changes in punters' habits and the bookmaking business. Meanwhile, the season's leading trainer, Richard Hannon, with nearly £2m already banked on behalf of his owners, outlined his plans for carrying on his plunder of one of the calendar's richest juvenile contests, Saturday's Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury.
Hannon's record in the £200,000 five-furlong dash is remarkable. He has won seven of the 19 runnings, stretching from Lyric Fantasy in 1992 to Monsieur Chevalier last year. This time he plans to field at least six, though the participation of his likely No 1 fancy Reckless Reward itself may depend on a lucrative sales deal.
The colt, runner-up in the Norfolk Stakes, is in the process of being sold to race in Hong Kong for an unspecified sum, but one that is likely to be more than his £38,000 cost as a yearling 11 months ago. Though the domestic trading scene is on something of a downer, spending in the Far East is not.
"The deal hasn't quite gone through yet," said Hannon yesterday, "and if it doesn't he could well run. But we might be able to persuade the new owners to run him anyway."
The Super Sprint is one of the contests in the programme which promises a decent reward to outlay, being restricted to horses sold at public auction for £53,000 or less, with the cheaper carrying less weight than the dearer ones. The trick, therefore, is to spot a speedy animal in the bargain basement, and is one at which Hannon and his buying team are particularly adept.
Hannon nominated Rossetti, Bilko Pak and Takeaway as his likeliest lads should Reckless Reward not make the start. "I don't think it's the strongest team we've ever had," he added, "but I don't think it's the strongest edition of the race." Hannon has proved capable of providing winners of the contest at prices to suit all breeds of punter; Lyric Fantasy was a 2-5 favourite and his Lady Livius started at 100-1.
If only the Levy was as reliable. The 2009 yield was 20 per cent down on 2008 figures and the estimated 2010 figures show it a further 17 per cent lower at £76.5m, a drop of over a third in two years. Betting exchanges and the departure of several leading bookmaking firms offshore have been apportioned some of the blame. Nic Coward, chief executive of the British Horesracing Authority, acknowledged frustration in the fixture list delay, but said: "It would be irresponsible for us to plan for 2011 when setting fixtures now could ultimately result in racing being left out of pocket."
Johnny Murtagh has decided not to appeal against the six-day suspension he picked up aboard winner Starspangledbanner in last Friday's July Cup.
Sue montgomery's nap
Zabeel Tower (9.20 Musselburgh)
Back at his optimum trip after one poor run, and one much better, last month, and has headgear applied this time.
Tillietudlem (3.30 Beverley)
Has been very well placed to score five times this term and has the hungriest senior assistance in the saddle today.
*one to watch
Menadati (D R Lanigan)
Good-looking US-bred who missed the break big-time on his debut but made good late progress.
*where the money's going
Paul Hanagan, with 11 rides today, is 4-7 for the jockeys' title with Coral, who offered him at 40-1 pre-season, and Skybet.
*chris mcgrath's nap
Ginger Jack (7.50 Musselburgh)