Horsemen's anger at decision
Arena Racing Company's refusal to enter in a prize-money agreement has disappointed both the Horsemen's Group and the ROA.
Subject to certain terms agreed with the ruling body of the British Horseracing Authority, the owners of three of Britain's all-weather tracks among their total of 15 will contribute £11.3m towards prize money in 2014, an increase of £2.2m.
The reaching of a one-year agreement with the BHA allows Lingfield to hold Europe's richest meeting on the surface, the finale of a reshaped all-weather championship season which sees 52 other races upgraded during the winter.
ARC says it has committed for three years to add £2m of extra funds to their all-weather championship season "to the improvement of the sport", but it prompted an angry response from both the Horsemen's Group - which represents the interests of owners, trainers, jockeys, stable staff and breeders - as well as the Racehorse Owners Association.
ARC has not signed up to the Horsemen's Group's contractual arrangement, which has been agreed with nearly half of Britain's racecourses, to secure binding minimum commitments for prize money, rather than a discretionary payment by the tracks.
Paul Bittar, chief executive of the BHA, said: "I am pleased that we have been able to agree terms with ARC, although it is unfortunate that ARC felt unable to sign up to the three-year prize-money agreement developed by the Horsemen's Group and BHA.
"We considered it in the best interests of the sport and its participants to secure a commitment to prize-money in 2014 from ARC.
"This agreement will deliver a substantial increase in ARC's contribution for 2014, an amount at least equal to what they would have made under a prize-money agreement, while also delivering ARC certainty over plans for their all-weather programme and Good Friday."
Tony Kelly, managing director of ARC, said: "We are pleased to confirm our on-going commitment to prize-money in a deal which brings benefits to the Horsemen, the BHA and ourselves.
"ARC's contribution to prize-money rose by 18% in 2013 and will increase by a further 24% in 2014."
Kelly also said Good Friday racing had not been a deal-breaker.
"The BHA were very helpful, along with the Levy Board, and this had to be brought in very quickly. We have a lot of people to thank.
"We wanted the championships to end at around this time in April and, in conjunction with the BHA, we came up with Good Friday. It wasn't a case of Good Friday or nothing.
"We've been working with the RCA (Racecourse Association) and the Horsemen's Group. The quantum was acceptable to them, but there was detail that we couldn't get across the line."
Kelly would not disclose any of this detail, but said: "The quantum was more than acceptable to the BHA."
Lord Howard, the ARC chairman, described it as an "extremely exciting step change in a very important element of horseracing".
"All-weather racing has this image of being the Cinderella of horseracing. We think it's more important than that, and we want to give it a boost."
However, Philip Freedman, the Horsemen's Group chairman, said: "I am extremely disappointed that, following prolonged discussions, ARC is not prepared to enter into a prize-money agreement with horsemen that commits to a contractual link between their very significant media revenues and their contribution to prize-money, and so will not sign the same agreement that 30 other courses have already entered into.
"Their rejection of a partnership approach sends a very clear message to the people that provide the horses at their fixtures, who will see through their prize-money commitment to the BHA as being motivated by retaining fixtures controlled by the BHA and also opening up an extra day's racing on Good Friday.
"It must not be overlooked that over 70% of the Flat races run at ARC tracks this year will have offered total prize-money of £4,000 or less, and much of the additional money they have committed will simply cover the price tag of the Good Friday fixture.
"In the light of their continued underinvestment in fixtures, it is hardly surprising that many horsemen harbour doubts that the £1m prize-money will prove to be a long-term commitment.
"We remain optimistic that the boards of a number of other courses will enter into agreements with horsemen in the coming weeks.
"While we are very disappointed that the BHA has felt that for 2014 it had to allocate leasehold fixtures to ARC even though they have not signed a prize-money agreement with horsemen, we recognise the challenges associated with one particular racecourse group being responsible for nearly 40% of the fixture list, which is clearly not a healthy position for our sport."
Rachel Hood, president of the ROA, criticised ARC's "totally inexcusable" decision not to sign up to the BHA agreement.
She said: "On behalf of all owners, I am extremely disappointed that ARC, in refusing to sign a prize-money agreement with horsemen after months of negotiation and positive words, has spuriously rejected the opportunity to rebuild trust in its name and establish a more positive relationship with racing's participants.
"ARC's owners have spoken about the importance of horsemen to their business but when, like other racecourses, they have been given the chance to create a partnership approach based on being transparent about their revenues, agreeing to a fair share with horsemen and then working together to achieve further growth, ARC has shown its true colours and, at the last minute, rejected the opportunity to put these words into actions.
"I have no doubt that when faced with the choice of where to run our horses, owners and trainers will remember which racecourses have signed agreements with horsemen, and which have not."