Thursday 30 March 2017

Managing the cost of hard yards in the yard

HRI gives its backing to an intriguing idea from trainers

Native River and rider Richard Johnson on their way to landing Saturday’s Hennessy. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Native River and rider Richard Johnson on their way to landing Saturday’s Hennessy. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Johnny Ward

Some years ago, a member of staff was perusing a trainer's accounts as a matter of interest. He fashioned a rough calculation after a few minutes and concluded that the boss was owed the guts of €70,000 from unpaid training fees.

When the recession hit, racing at grass-roots got a battering from which it has struggled to regain confidence. Syndicates went asunder, the building game was bust and prevailing despair rendered it almost acceptable in the minds of some owners to stop paying the monthly bill.

Trainers, predictably, fell away and were soon but a withered husk of memory. Big names - think Charlie Swan and Colm Murphy - were not immune.

Things evolve and trainers felt that they needed to too; as such, many slashed their charges, cut corners and attracted owners who probably should have known better. Memorably, the Racing Post had an advertisement from a trainer stating his fees were €500 a month, a small amount given the costs involved.

The reality is that the vast majority of those tackling a tough profession in Ireland barely survive. Many will insist that no trainer should be charging less than €1,200 a month but very many do in order to attract owners.

At Wednesday night's AGM of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, the box-office story was a unanimous agreement that Horse Racing Ireland will look after the administration of training fees. This will discourage owners who are failing to pay - the notion is that HRI would bar them from having runners.

If an owner had a horse with Trainer A, brought him home for the summer having not fulfilled his billing obligations and later switched the steed to Trainer B, HRI can intervene and stop Trainer B from running the horse.

When asked about its position on the idea, HRI told this newspaper: "This issue is about the relationship between owners and trainers rather than debt management by HRI; it's an area we would like to support trainers with from a processing viewpoint.

"We have not received a formal request to put anything in place yet. We need to work on the process jointly and we need to see agreements between owners and trainers to facilitate this."

Philip Carberry, based in France, explains that a similar system is in operation there. "It is possible to transfer money from one France Galop account to another with a transfer slip that is each time signed by each account holder. I think it would help Irish trainers' liquidity as feed and bedding companies usually give the trainer a 30-day credit if any."

Some are sceptical. "I don't need my business conducted through HRI. If a trainer wishes to do it then fine but I don't want it mandatory," said Ger Lyons, adding they "were already swamped in paperwork."

According to trainer Johnny Levins, HRI taking charge would give not only trainers a greater protection - but staff too. Staff-related matters arose at the AGM as did an unexpected follow-on.

The Irish Stable Staff Assocation (ISSA) was belittled, some saying it had failed workers on the ground, many not even aware of its existence. Bernard Caldwell, its chief, has been accused of being in effective cahoots with trainers but he certainly was not that last week.

The ISSA and trainers are attempting to achieve pay agreements but the fact Caldwell heard nothing since the meeting was, he said, "a disgrace, an insult". The ISSA is poor at promoting the work it does and, according to Levins, who praised the ISSA, "never in the history of Irish racing has there being a better time to be an employee in a yard."

However, issues remain. Gordon Elliott had 27 runners at Navan yesterday - a whopper of a logistical challenge which put in bold print the indispensability of reliable foot soldiers. They tend to work unsociable hours and are often poorly educated; they need a formidable representative body.

Elliott's six-timer at Navan was sensational going at the conclusion of another hugely enjoyable weekend of racing. He has almost reached last year's tally of Irish winners already and those doubting his credentials as a potential champion this year are now, instead, doubting themselves.

Colin Tizzard, too, must be wondering is this all a dream. A former colleague in the British press told me that Tizzard "comes across a bit of a bumbling old man but is really smart."

Native River's powerful performance at Newbury means that the Dorset dairy farmer not only has the hot Gold Cup favourite in Thistlecrack but two other legitimate hopes in the Hennessy hero and Cue Card. There's no bumbling about Leopardstown CEO Pat Keogh, who was at the Japan Cup yesterday trying to promote Irish Champions Weekend. Earlier last week, he visited the Mark Bradstock yard as he wants to get Coneygree to the Lexus at Christmas.

Tizzard might expect a call from an '01' number soon.

RIDE OF THE WEEK

Wayne Lordan was tactically superb and strong as 6/1 chance More Kudos won by a head at Dundalk.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"It's a joy to be working for such a man. He's come a long way in a short time."

Jamie Codd after the 41,277/1 six-timer Gordon Elliott achieved, having ridden Three Swallowsnick.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Calling apprentices 10 winners or less. Ride available 7.25 Wed Kemp. State your case in 140 characters. Likely to be given to best reply.

Jamie Osborne (@osbornejamie) is nothing if not innovative.

GAMBLE OF THE WEEK

Noble Endeavor went off 7/2 in the Troytown; 11s earlier in the week, he rewarded each-way support in fourth.

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport