Thursday, 21 April 2016

Sticky Toffee Prizes

The countdown has started… to the 2017 racing season.

During the next few days racecourse managers will be meeting at Newbury and York to discuss the fixture allocation process, hopeful that we can hammer out a fixture list that can be published before Cartmel’s final race-day of this season on 29th August.

There is some concern about the funding of the fixture list - despite the Government announcing that the sport should benefit, in the long-term, from all bets struck by British punters with bookmakers based offshore. The new levy arrangements are likely to take effect from April 2017 at the earliest – and the revenue accrued from the new system won’t be available immediately; it will be paid in instalments, following a series of audited procedures, that are probably yet to be defined - and may or may not involve secret accounts in Panama. 

The sport will therefore rely heavily on race sponsors and authorised betting partners to keep prize money topped up throughout the hiatus. So it is heartening to know, as we head into the 2016 season, that our regular race sponsors are as supportive as ever. This year we’ll be welcoming lots of names that are already familiar to Cartmel racegoers including: the Tote, Louis Roederer Champagne, Oakmere Homes, Burlington Stone and Banks Lyon Jewellers, to name just a few.

The first race of our season - on Simply Red Raceday, Saturday 28th May – will be the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Novices Hurdle Race. The Cartmel Village Shop, who produce the famous pudding, have sponsored the first race on the first day of the season forever. Well almost. Their sponsorship is already one of the oldest in the industry – outliving, as it has, great races such as The Whitbread Gold Cup which will be run on Saturday as the Bet365 Gold Cup. 

More importantly, the Village Shop also provides us with enough sticky toffee puddings to ensure that every winning owner, jockey and trainer goes home with a pudding in a beautifully branded paper bag. The puddings are so popular that sometimes I wonder if we really need to offer prize money at all - but racehorse owners can’t live on sticky toffee alone, and if the bookmakers paid their levy in puddings we’d all be jolly fat. So, thanks (in no small measure) to the generosity of our sponsors, we’ve also got a Cartmel-record-breaking £472,000 to give away this year - an average of £7,500 for each of the 63 races.

Compared to the £4.6 million won by Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins this season, that might not seem like a lot of money, but then they’ve won a lot more than 63 races between them – and most of the best races too. Interestingly, neither has managed to win a sticky toffee pudding.

The Nicholls-Mullins battle for the Trainers Championship is set to continue all the way to Sandown’s big race on Saturday, which I expect will be won by Nicky Henderson’s Hadrian’s Approach. He jumped ever so well over the Grand National fences; it was just a shame that he got rid of his rider at the first fence.

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