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Charged to watch charges is not right

SMALL fields aside, it would be wrong not to admire the desire of Joe Keeling and HRI in increasing the prize money and dropping administration costs for owners.

However, in a typical Irish manner, I can't compliment without criticising, albeit the HRI are only in the crossfire of the criticism.

For many years now it has amazed me at how the Association Of Irish Racecourses (AIR) can give a syndicate just four admission cards to the races on days which they have a runner.

Again, I will repeat, I applaud HRI for their announcement on Monday about increased prize money and cutting owners' costs and all to try and attract more owners.

But come on, four AIR admission cards in this day in age? Surely that is something that the HRI should have tried to resolve before coming out and stating that the decline in ownership is one of their biggest concerns.

Of course, that's fine if there are only four in the syndicate, but according to the HRI website, a 'Syndicate' consists of "Five to twenty members, one of whom must be a registered owner and act as the agent for the syndicate."

So if there are only four in the syndicate, it's not a syndicate at all it's a 'Partnership' which is referred to on the site as "Two to four registered owners form a racing partnership."

Now you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that if you form a syndicate of five people that one of you is going to have to fork out another €10 to sometimes €30 to get in and watch the horse you pay monthly for do what you pay monthly for – run at the races.

This, it must be added is an AIR decision and not a HRI decision.

The AIR guide is pretty straightforward – a sole owner gets four AIR cards, a syndicate gets four AIR cards, a partnership gets four AIR cards, and a club (which has no maximum limit) gets – you guessed it – four AIR cards.

Again, I think it's nice that a sole owner gets four cards so that when he/she has a runner they can treat friends to a day at the races, and while I don't expect every member of a racing club to get an AIR card, you would imagine that they and a syndicate are entitled to more than four.

It should also be noted that these cards will only work on the day an owner has a runner and not every meeting, so it's not as if they can take advantage. Additional cards can also be purchased by syndicates and clubs, but surely they are spending enough without having to spend extra on AIR cards.

In this day and age, surely syndicates have to be targeted, as only a minority can afford the full brunt of racehorse ownership, whereas a syndicate is an enjoyable, affordable and much recommended way to do things.

One of the recurring themes of this Track Talk column over the last 12 or so months has been how low attendances are at the races so why not make sure that all owners on the day are treated the same.