Rulings on Purses, Cell Phones Trigger Boycott Talk

Talk of strikes and boycotts by owners and jockeys in Great Britain over separate issues actually materialized the week of Sept. 1.

Owners of racehorses, supported by trainers, have been disgusted by the Levy Board's decision to suddenly cut purse allocations by £6 million in the last quarter of 2003 because of a shortfall in income. Because of that decision, races have been run for below the usual minimum of £4,000 ($6,345).

The Racehorse Owners' Association, which represents the majority of owners, called for boycotts of races worth less than £4,000. On Sept. 5, there was an attempted boycott of a race at the North East steeplechase course. Only two horses were declared to race.

Owners and trainers plan more boycotts. Meanwhile, jockeys have been furious about a Jockey Club ban on use of mobile phones at racecourses during racing. They have protested by collectively gathering outside racecourse gates and using their phones. Jockeys argue they need to talk to owners, trainers, and agents during racing hours in order to be able to go about their business properly.

The Jockey Club, because of integrity considerations, wants jockeys to use Jockey Club mobiles in a special area of the weighing room under supervision of a security officer.

No disruption of racing has occurred because of the protests, but feelings are running high and, unless a compromise is hammered out Sept. 9 at a scheduled meeting between the two sides, higher-profile action could be taken as soon as Sept. 14.