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The Trustees of the British EBF recently lent their support to the aims of British racing’s dedicated committee tackling issues of diversity and inclusion in the sport. In a Racing Together blog, Rachael Gowland from the British EBF and David Letts from the Diversity in Racing Steering Group, talk about the first of initiative supported by the Trustees – a race to celebrate Pride month.
What is Pride month?
Pride month falls annually to recognise the Stonewall Riots which occurred on 28th June 1969 and were a pivotal turning point for LGBT+ rights across the world. Pride month is about LGBT+ communities and allies coming together to celebrate the progress which has been made whilst recognising that there is still work to do. It is about committing to play our role in addressing the issues which still exist through education and promoting an open dialogue around LGBT+ inclusion.
What is Racing With Pride?
Racing With Pride is part of the sport’s broader Diversity in Racing Steering Group. The Racing with Pride committee aims to further awareness, education and engagement relating to LGBT+ matters and encompasses the sport’s LGBT+ network of the same name.
What is the European Breeders’ Fund (EBF)?
The British EBF is one of the largest financial supporters of racing in the country, contributing over £1.7million to prize money each year, sponsoring across all 59 (?) racecourses In Great Britain. Funded by British stallion owners, it has been an integral part of the racing landscape since 1983.
Why is it important for racing to show its support?
Research has shown that LGBT+ individuals working in racing are less likely to be out in the workplace than other areas of their life (i.e. to family and friends). It also highlighted considerable homophobic language being used throughout the sport, which can make an environment seem unwelcoming for LGBT+ people.
As a result, the British racing industry has been doing a lot of work around LGBT+ inclusion over the last year with the formation of Racing With Pride, the sport’s LGBT+ network and the launch of a specific e-learning module on Racing2Learn. Further projects include the creation of a communications resource pack, webinars and guidance resources and engagement with Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign through Racing Is Everyone’s Sport which saw the creation of a powerful video alongside on-course activation.
Given all this great work, Pride offers the perfect opportunity for the sport to celebrate the work undertaken and visibly show its support for the LGBT+ community.
Why are the British EBF championing Diversity and Inclusion?
“Put simply: there is no down-side to creating a safe, inclusive, fun and accepting environment for people to work or spend their leisure time.” Says Simon Sweeting, Chairman of the British EBF.
“We bridge both the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industries and have a valuable marketing tool in our race sponsorship that initiatives like Racing with Pride and the Diversity in Racing Steering Group can benefit greatly from. Our Trustees were unanimous in their support of donating a race to promote the aims of the sport around the theme of Pride, encompassing gender identity and sexual orientation.”
When approached by the Diversity in Racing Steering Group earlier in the year, the British EBF Trustees were keen to show support for the projects developing horse racing as a more inclusive sport.
Alongside York Racecourse, the British EBF were able to offer a high-profile sponsorship opportunity as a platform to celebrate the progress already made and raise awareness more widely across the sport.
William Derby, York Racecourse Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course, said: “York Racecourse is a committed advocate of Racing with Pride and are determined to ensure racing on the Knavesmire is welcoming and inclusive for all. Our senior management team have developed, and committed to, our York Racecourse Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and have all undertaken Diversity training modules and have sought to ensure all departments and areas are as diverse, inclusive and welcoming as possible. Among our existing team, we have members of the LGBTQ+ community who we are proud to have as colleagues. We are actively working within racing, alongside the Diversity in Racing Steering group to ensure our diverse workforce can be confident, comfortable and be part of a fully inclusive community. It is important to us that all our participants and fans feel included and valued.”
What is racing doing more widely?
This month, individuals and organisations across horseracing are coming together to celebrate Pride month. Racing With Pride and Sports Media LGBT+ recently hosted a ‘Preparing for Pride’ webinar to help the sport feel ready to confidently engage with Pride month – the full recording can be viewed here. In response, displays of support including social media activity, race titles and media coverage have been increasingly visible across the sport. In addition, organisations are looking internally at what can be done to foster inclusive environments which encourage new spectators and talent to racing.
We are asking people to continue their support beyond Pride month. Racing With Pride will be hosting a free webinar on Friday 16th July focusing on the importance of Allyship and how we all have a role to play in making sure that racing is an open and inclusive sport for all.
David Letts, academic researcher and Chair of Racing With Pride, commented:
“It is fantastic to see the sport’s enthusiasm for engaging with Pride month, which seems to develop year-on-year. Following our recent ‘Preparing for Pride’ webinar, we have been approached by organisations across the sport who want to demonstrate their support and ensure that they are doing so authentically. We are now working alongside these organisations to create action plans, offer internal training sessions and form ongoing relationships. What’s most reassuring is the recognition that these commitments go beyond Pride month and are seen as a year-round focus.”
A mammoth 278 juveniles remain in with a chance of claiming the biggest prize on offer at Naas Racecourse following the latest forfeit stage for the second renewal of the €200,000 Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes. Among the 278 that have stood their ground are winners from both sides of the Irish Sea with 90 British-based entries remaining for the feature race on the August Bank Holiday Monday.
The race is confined to two-year-olds that are EBF eligible and whose sire established a median price of not more than €75,000 at the 2020 yearling sales. There is also the added incentive for 19 of the remaining entries as sponsors Ballyhane Stud have posted a €50,000 bonus if the winner of the race is by a sire standing at Ballyhane.
Ballyhane Stud has established a reputation for standing leading commercial and successful stallions over the last two decades with Dandy Man, Elzaam, Prince Of Lir, Soldier’s Call and Sands Of Mali currently on their roster.
Ger Lyons is a trainer who is no stranger to big two-year-old winners and also has his hands on a few entries that could chase the bonus.
Notably, among the Lyons cast are two of Elzaam’s progeny. Recurrent Dream is a half-brother to a seven-time winner, Powerallied, who has yet to advertise his wares in public, while Elzaam Tales created a positive impression when just touched off by a head on debut in Dundalk last month.
Among Lyons’ other possible contenders is Jarvis, who also showed plenty of promise first time out when third in a Cork maiden at the beginning of April. The runner-up on that occasion, the Fozzy Stack-trained Castle Star has since won twice, including at Group 3 level last weekend.
“The Irish EBF are brilliant as the primary sponsor of Irish racing. They have put a huge amount of money into the sport, recently announcing an all-time-high allocation of €2.6m in prize money for the year. Everyone in Irish racing should be very thankful to them for that,” Lyons said.
“I will always want to have entries in a race like the Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes with such a substantial pot. Any contest that puts sizeable prize money up for the owners has to be greatly appreciated and has to be supported. I’m only too happy to back it because it is beneficial to our owners in the long term.”
The Classic-winning trainer added: “The €50,000 bonus to the winner if sired by a Ballyhane Stud stallion is an obvious attraction and I have two by Elzaam in it. I’d take great pleasure out of taking an extra 50 grand from Joe Foley!
“I like Elzaam as a sire but offering a bonus of this nature would make you want an Elzaam just that little bit more.”
Just days after saddling Belle Image to finish fourth in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at odds of 125/1, trainer Sheila Lavery is no stranger to taking a punt in high calibre races and the Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes is firmly on her radar.
Lavery has half a dozen horses in her care that could take in this Naas race and she too was full of praise for the initiative as well as being hopeful of being strongly represented when the race comes around on 2nd August.
“You need to have entries in a race of this calibre,” she stated on Friday morning. “You need to have run and finished in the first five in your first run or have a good rating to try to get into the race but it is a race you would be thinking about with all of your two-year-olds that are eligible.
“Of mine that are entered, two have run to date. Arewecrystalclear is a smart filly who has run twice, including on debut at Naas when she was fifth in a good maiden at the start of the month. Then she was third in Cork last week, when she struggled in the ground. I think it was the ground that beat her there, she wheelspinned a bit.
“She relaxes really well so while she’s quick enough for five furlongs, you wouldn’t be worried about six at all. She’s one you’d be very bullish about for the race. I like her a lot.
“I also have a Lawman filly, Vidala, that I like a lot that. She hasn’t run yet, but she is giving the right signals so far.”
“It’s a brilliant initiative and Joe Foley’s fantastic for supporting it. The prize money is so good, that for the owners, the horses are paid for and there’s money there that they can go back into the market and buy. It’s wonderful and by leaving out the real top-end pedigrees, it is giving people a chance to get a share of some significant prize money that would make a lot of difference to a lot of people. And as we saw last year, that isn’t compromising in the quality. Some really good horses have come out of the race.”
The next forfeit stage for the Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes is on 23rd June and in addition to the lucrative prize money on offer, the breeder of the winning horse will also receive a free nomination courtesy of Ballyhane Stud for one of the Ballyhane sires.
Irish racing’s largest sponsor, Irish European Breeders’ Fund have today announced its highest ever sponsorship by increasing the allocation of prize-money to €2.6 million. This will be the largest annual contribution to Irish racing and will bring the overall contribution to €52 million since the foundation of the Irish European Breeders’ Fund in 1983. This spend will encompass over 320 flat races and 160 National Hunt races that carry EBF conditions throughout the year.
Highlights include twenty-six races in the Median Sires Series each worth a minimum of €25,000, the Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes with a minimum prize-fund of €200,000 and the successful Irish EBF two-year-old Auction Series. This year the €695,000 Irish EBF Auction Series, formerly co-sponsored with Foran Equine, will be run by the Irish EBF with all prize-money levels upheld from April to October with twenty-five qualifiers and the €120,000 final will be held at Naas Racecourse on Sunday October 17th. Irish EBF already supports 95% of two-year-old maidens in Ireland, 33% of the three-year-old maidens, a series of three year old and upwards fillies handicaps as well as four €125,000 Premier Handicaps held over Irish Champions Weekend.
The National Hunt spend always has a focus on enhancing the mares program and this will continue again with over 50% of the annual spend concentrated on mares bumpers, hurdles and chases. The recent successes of Honeysuckle, Put The Kettle On, Heaven Help Us and Skyace who each won Irish EBF supported mares races, showcase the positive effect the program is having. Another recent boost to the mares program is the newly co-sponsored €120,000 Grade 1 Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown which is the richest mares hurdle race in Ireland and Britain. The focus continues to auction hurdles and bumpers with the competitive Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series and the Irish EBF Auction Bumpers running 23 races throughout the National Hunt season. The final of the Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle series, worth €75,000 was run at the Punchestown Festival and won by Surprise Package, a €4,200 store sale purchase. Finally there are over 60 Irish EBF supported races for maiden and novice hurdlers and beginner and novice chasers which make up the balance of the National Hunt spend.
The IRE Incentive Scheme, funded by Horse Racing Ireland, which awards a €10,000 sales voucher to owners of Irish-bred winners, will be an added feature on a large number of Irish EBF supported races such as two-year-old fillies’ maidens, two-year-old auction maidens, two-year-old median sire series races and three-year-old median auction races on the flat. For the National Hunt sector both the Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series races and the Irish EBF Auction Bumper Series will have the scheme in place for winning IRE suffix horses. This will greatly enhance already valuable races in the Irish EBF programme for connections of both flat and NH horses.
John O’Connor, Irish EBF Chairman, said; “I would like to thank all the Irish Stallion Farms, large and small, who fund the Irish EBF and put us in a position to increase the annual sponsorship of Irish racing and allow us to continue to provide many valuable options to owners and trainers of horses of both codes. The Irish EBF board would also like to sincerely thank Foran Equine for their wonderful support over the last four years with the Auction Series. It has quickly grown and established itself as a prominent feature on the Irish Flat racing programme and we are delighted to be in a position to maintain prize-money levels this year with the ongoing support of Horse Racing Ireland.”
Ger Lyons, Trainer, commented; “We landed the €120,000 auction final last year with Ecliptical after targeting it since its inception. The horse was an €18,000 purchase as a yearling so this series offers our owners a real reason to stay on board season after season. It was a huge thrill for Vincent Gaul, who is a long-standing owner and always has several horses in training at Glenburnie. The lucrative pot on offer in the Irish EBF Ballyhane race combined with all the median sires races gives us plenty to aim for with our string of two year olds. The fact that prize money levels will be maintained this season is great news and we really appreciate the investment and ongoing support from the Irish EBF and HRI.”
John ‘Shark’ Hanlon, Trainer, said; “It was such a thrill for the syndicate owners and ourselves to win the big mares race at Fairyhouse with Skyace. The prize-money is unreal for these Irish EBF mares’ races, it is very important to have this programme in place to give everyone an incentive to buy and race a mare. If I take in a mare to train these days, there are just as many races available for her as compared to geldings, years ago this was not the case, so well done to everyone involved in putting together the races, the prize-money and bonuses.”