BRITISH horse racing’s £100,000 ‘Racing for Change’ Order of Merit launches for the sixth jump racing season at Aintree Racecourse on Saturday 24 October.
Now organised by Racing Enterprises Limited and co-funded by the host racecourses, the Order of Merit covers 70 races between that day and the finale to the jumps season at Sandown Park Racecourse on Saturday 24 April in 2010.
The initiative has helped to increase significantly the number of runners in the higher quality races in its first five seasons.
Last season, three out of every four (74%) Order of Merit races had eight or more runners – which also produced the additional benefit of potentially increasing each-way betting. Prior to the Order of Merit’s launch in the 2004/5 season, fewer than half (48%) of the corresponding races attracted more than seven runners.
In the 2008/9 season, Order of Merit races attracted a record number of runners – a total of 774 – an average of 12 per race.
The Order of Merit this season comes with a prize fund of £100,000. This will be split: £50,000 to the winning owner; £30,000 to the winning training yard; and £20,000 to the winning trainer.
The valuable prize available for stable staff has become especially popular over the years.
Edward Gillespie, managing director of Cheltenham Racecourse, which hosts 22 of this season’s 70 races, said: “The Order of Merit has been an enormously successful initiative in focusing attention on the sport’s major races. I warmly welcome the decision of Racing Enterprises Limited and the racecourses to continue the Order of Merit this season.”
Bookmakers agree that the Order of Merit works and increases wagering.
Coral’s director of communications Simon Clare said: “The improvement in the number of runners has had a very beneficial impact on turnover, as with each additional runner the turnover on a race increases.
“As these races are usually the feature races on the afternoon, they attract the most bets and the most turnover, so any incremental improvement in betting volumes is of significant benefit to bookmakers and therefore to racing through the Levy.”
Previous winners of the Order of Merit have included dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star and three times World Hurdle winner at the Cheltenham Festival Inglis Drever.
Last season’s Order of Merit hero was Voy Por Ustedes whose trainer Alan King said: “We were delighted to win the Order of Merit and are very pleased that it is continuing this season. You never know, we might win it again.”
The trainer’s head lad Nigel Toal added: “It’s excellent that the Order of Merit includes a significant cash prize for stable staff. The money made a big difference to everyone working in the yard.”
Barry Simpson, racing manager to Voy Por Ustedes’s owner Sir Robert Ogden, said: “The Order of Merit prize offers a handsome reward for any horse who performs consistently in the selected high profile races. We are looking forward to the challenge again.”
Trainer Paul Nicholls, whose Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star has topped the Order of Merit twice, said: “This is a great initiative that’s been good for jump racing. We’ve won it before and we’ll be trying to win it again, not just for our owners but also for our staff.”
The head lad at the champion trainer’s Ditcheat stables in Somerset, Clifford Baker, added: “The stable staff prize is pretty significant and we celebrated in style. It’s really nice to see that the lads and lasses get a sizeable share of the pot.”
The opening race of the 2009/10 ‘Racing for Change’ Order of Merit at the home of the Grand National is the Grade 2 Toteswinger Flexi Betting Old Roan Chase, raced over two and a half miles.
The points system for this year’s Order of Merit is as follows: Grade 1 races 1st (20 points) 2nd (16) 3rd (12) 4th (10); Grade 2 races 15, 12, 10 and 8; Grade 3 races 10, 8, 6, 5.
Note to editors: An updated ‘Racing for Change’ Order of Merit leader board will be issued during weeks in which races in the contest take place. It can also be accessed on the BHA website – stage.britishhorseracing.com/orderofmerit/leaderboard.asp
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For further information, please contact:
Nick Attenborough, at Racing Enterprises Limited, on (direct line weekdays) 020 7152 0237, (mobile) 07714 146528, or (home) 01865 841380
18 October 2009