Leading trainer Mark Johnston has labelled the prize-money for the novice races on Winter Derby day at Lingfield on Saturday as “ridiculous” after trainers forced one contest to be scrapped and another to be a walkover at the Arena Racing Company-owned track.
The prize-money row in began on Thursday morning when trainers protested en masse with no runners declared for the five furlong novice stakes from an entry of nine, while only the Nick Littmoden-trained Greybychoice was declared from the 18 entries for the mile novice stakes.
The two races are each worth £4,500, compared to £5,800 last year.The protest comes as a reaction to Arc’s decision to cut prize-money by £3 million in response to the government’s crackdown on FOBT stakes.
Mark Johnston said: “I had two horses in the race and sent one to Chelmsford and the other has been entered at Southwell where the prize-money was £8,000 rather than £4,500.
“It gets to a point where it’s just not viable to take a horse all the way to Lingfield for that sort of money. We’ve done it in the past, but we’re not going back to the bad old days.
“The prize-money is quite ridiculous and the whole situation of Arc cutting prize-money in anticipation of a potential cut in the number of betting shops and funding due to the FOBT reduction, which is hypothetical at the moment, is out of order.
“The race values vary from 46-60 handicaps to maidens and better class races across the courses, but we always note the prize-money when making entries.”
Johnston is the leading trainer at Chelmsford since its reopening in 2015 and praised the prize-money levels at the Essex track owned by Betfred founder Fred Done.
He said: “The prize-money at Chelmsford is absolutely fantastic. I’ve been going there since its rebirth, and it might be a long way away, but we simply have to go as the prize-money is wonderful.
“It’s always been the case that we go to the tracks that offer the best prize-money.”