Bar raised with Chester incentive
Chester's ambition to ensure that owners are as welcome as the rest of the 20,000-plus racegoers they attract to every one of their 18 fixtures has received a further boost with news that the 'appearance money' scheme introduced last year has been boosted to £500.
Chester: No owner need go home out of pocket!
In effect this will mean that no owner sending a horse from north of the Watford Gap will end up much out of pocket, if at all, even if their runner fails to get involved in the finish.
The news was announced on Tuesday by racecourse chief executive Richard Thomas, who admitted that although it was hard to measure exactly how much difference the appearance money incentive had made to field sizes in 2016, statistics showed both increased field sizes and a reduction in the number of non-runners, for many years a thorn in Chester's side due to the advantage conveyed by a low draw in a relatively big field.
"This year we will be offering £500 to the owners of every horse, along with a sumptuous lunch and wine – they can come for a great day's racing and know it shouldn't cost them anything even if their horse is unplaced," said Thomas.
"To some extent we are relying upon owners being proactive in steering trainers down the path of running at Chester, but we are being increasingly proactive in saying to owners 'Look, there's another race here later in the season where the conditions will suit your horse so why not encourage your trainer to come back?'.
"In the new era of media rights payments, where getting eight runners into every race will become a vital component for every racecourse, this will be important.
"We'll also run no race for less than £10,000 this year. We won't have bad races at Chester for bad prize-money."
Thomas also confirmed investment in a new £150,000 owners and trainers facility at Chester's sister course, Bangor-on-Dee, and revealed details of a new five-year contract with PGI, a totalisator and wagering business owned by Tabcorp and Phumelela, who will offer both the controversial ChesterBet 'SP minus 10%' win and place facility this year, along with fixed-odds prices to on-course punters.
A new mobile app is to be introduced in time for the start of racing at Chester in May 2017, allowing punters to deposit funds before racing, bet throughout the meeting, and then withdraw cash or use the balance against a restaurant or bar purchase.
"When the Betfred monopoly on pool betting on racing comes to an end, it's going to be an interesting and tricky time for every racecourse," said Thomas. "The days of queuing at the Tote window are over."
From July 2018 Chester will be offering pool betting on racing alongside their other betting products.