THE WORD OF AFAC - March sees the racing world sent into a tailspin


THE WORD OF AFAC - March sees the racing world sent into a tailspin

Forward by Axelle Nègre de Watrigant, the President of AFAC

The various racecourse associations reacted to events well in advance of the current health crisis which we are experiencing. French racing, in the first instance, took place behind closed doors, although there was no obligation to do this. The ruling council of France Galop showed no hesitation in taking this approach, and with a view to enabling us to stage racing for as long as possible. Sadly, the pace at which the Covid-19 virus spread proved relentless. Consequently, France Galop was forced to put racing on hold so as to comply with the drastic health measures introduced in France. We need to pull out the all stops as regards stopping the spread of the disease. France Galop is aware of the difficulties that this decision has entailed, and the implications which it has, of course, for our owners, breeders, jockeys and our riding staff, but also, and above all, for the way in which it impacts on our trainers.

The situation is a difficult one for all concerned, as the PMU is at a standstill, having seen a 90 per cent drop in its revenues. Deprived of betting income, the racing sector will no longer receive the anticipated funding. For the PMU revenues finance in real time, and on a just in time basis, the sector as a whole.

To give an idea of the scale of the problem, France Galop allocates 21 million euros in funding per month, but its running costs which are split between employees, racetracks, rents, training centres, and various buildings which serve as headquarters, generates significant additional costs. So if there is no allocation of funds, the fixed costs relative to the organising of the sport remain. So it is necessary to make the necessary savings in order to overcome this unprecedented situation.

Despite this, France Galop has shown a willingness to help the racing professionals by introducing some immediate measures such as abolition of levies at a national level related to track access rights until May 1st, and by introducing a moratorium designed to alleviate rental costs for those renting their stables conditional to racing remaining suspended. A plan to assist trainers with public licences was unveiled on March 25th. We are hoping that the state will step in further by announcing more significant measures in due course.

Thanks to the governance of the racing sector, which is presided by Loïc Malivet, the breeders have obtained the necessary breathing space which will enable the covering season to continue, and this subject to strict protocols in place being met in relation to the transportation of horses and the covering of mares. Yet, for how long? For vets are very divided on the subject of continuing their professional activities, with the exception of providing emergency cover. It looks to be a safe bet that the text which I have penned here will shortly become obsolete. Are we now in a position to produce as many foals next year as we have done previously? Particularly, when comparisons are made with other countries.

What is certain at this stage is that we have had to cancel five races from our current PA programme and namely:

- 22/03 Mont-de-Marsan: Prix Magic de Piboul -  Wathba Stallions Cup (4-y-o +).

- 04/04 Bordeaux-Le Bouscat : Prix Massoud (3-y-o)          .

- 06/04 Mont-de-Marsan: Prix Kriss II - Wathba Stallions Cup (4-y-o +).

- 07/04 Tarbes: Prix Val d’Adour - Wathba Stallions Cup (4-y-o +).

- 11/04 Bordeaux- Le Bouscat: Prix Al Sakbe - Wathba Stallions Cup (4-y-o).

The Wathba Stallions Cup were the partial sponsors of four of these races.

Only one race for the 3-year-old division has been cancelled for the moment.

We’re very pleased to announce that the H.H. Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Flat Racing Festival organisation has extended its 2020 French sponsorship programme to include a pair of Group PA races, the Sheikh Mansoor Festival - Prix Nefta (Gr2 PA), and the Sheikh Mansoor Festival - Prix Dormane (Gr3 PA), but, above all, it has given rise to the creation of three new races at Pau.

AFAC, in partnership with the ACA (Association d’éleveurs de chevaux arabes de pur sang et de demi sang), will finance two additional races at Vichy in August.

Our 2020 racing calendar, initially enriched by five additional races, has been pegged back to its 2019 levels which means the staging of 81 races. However, it is possible that the current situation will continue indefinitely, which could lead to further meetings being cancelled.

The fact that the Dubai World Cup card has fallen by the wayside is another case in point.

AFAC is on a war-footing in these trying times and, true to form, the organisation will be out to come up with the required solutions for racing’s players. The proposed innovative measures will be put forward at right time and in complete collaboration with France Galop.

Take care of yourself, your families, and remain at home, as total confinement is the best way of stopping the spread of the virus.

It’s up to us to rein back on our passion as it will be all the more vibrant when normality is eventually restored!