The English page - Brexit blues
Brexit has been on everybody´s mind this week, following Tuesday´s rejection by the British Parliament of the May government´s proposals for a “soft” Brexit and the subsequent failure of a vote of no confidence in her government. Teresa May has until Monday to come up with a Plan B, but nobody seems to know what this will look like, or whether it will be acceptable either to the EU or to Parliament, which is expected to vote on the proposals on Tuesday. What is certain is that the British political scene has changed dramatically for the worse and nobody comes out of this with credit.
At the moment the Tripartite agreement between the U.K., France and Ireland governs the free movement of racehorses and breeding stock between these countries; Germany is not part of the agreement and there is more red tape involved for German horses, but it is still relatively straightforward. This agreement is part of the original British proposals which were voted down on Tuesday, and there must be a real danger that the movement of horses from the EU to and from the UK will be severely curtailed after March 29th if there is no deal by then - it is of course possible that there might be an extension of the time limit, but that will just delay matters until later.
There were 26,000 movements of horses registered last year between the U.K., France and Ireland – British horses running in top races in France and Ireland (and vice versa), horses going to the sales, broodmares being covered. Ireland is the worst affected, because of its huge breeding industry and also because Irish racing is currently operated on an all-Ireland basis. What will happen now to horses trained in the Republic of Ireland wanting to run at Down Royal or Downpatrick, both situated in Northern Ireland, i.e. in the U.K. but regarded as part of the Irish racing industry? The danger of massive queues at the border is daunting to say the least, especially that border, but this applies generally to the movement or horses to and from or via the U.K. There is even talk of lorries and other forms of transport, including horse boxes, being stuck for many hours or even days at the border crossings. This is obviously out of the question for racehorses or broodmares.
Germany is not so badly affected, but there are plenty of German mares normally covered by stallions in the U.K. or Ireland, which is usually reached via the U.K. Flying would be easier but is normally much too expensive. Relatively few German-trained horses run in England, but when they do it is normally in the top races. Windstoß ran third last year in the Group One Coronation Cup, while Dominik Moser had several Brümmerhof-owned runners. And obviously Danedream and Novellist both won the “King George” earlier in this decade. Several German horses are now sold to Australia, or in cases like Protectionist, run there; the quarantine station for them has so far been in Newmarket, another problem.
British-trained runners have also been very successful in recent years in Germany. Last year Godolphin won Germany´s three most important summer races, Benbatl in Munich and Best Solution in Hoppegarten and Baden-Baden, all Group One events, while other British successes included the German 1,000 Guineas, the Badener Meile and the Goldene Peitsche, all Group Two. As these winners subsequently boosted the form by major successes in Australia and elsewhere, the German races will have relatively high ratings, an important argument at next week´s Pattern Race Committee meeting in London. Should fewer U.K.-trained horses run in future in Germany, this would certainly weaken the prestige of the top races here.
Betting could also be affected. Most British-based bookmakers now refuse to accept bets from residents in Germany, because of the tax situation. However this does not bother on-line bookies based in tax havens such as Malta or Gibraltar. The latter jurisdiction is theoretically part of the U.K., so one can certainly see problems there.
The Direktorium this week published details of various financial support measures for Germ,an racecourses, most of whom are operating at a loss. There is support for the smaller number of PMU races shown in France (245 scheduled for this year compared to 357 in 2018); this comes from the profits of German Tote, which is in any case majority-owned by the PMU. There are subsidies for all 44 group races to be run in Germany this year and also sums to equalize the amounts lost by the racecourses as a result of the better tote dividends.
More significant however is the support to be given to midweek racing, which has been severely reduced in recent years, partly due of course to the smaller number of horses in training. Those midweek meetings not supported by the PMU will receive 30,000 euros (Monday to Friday) or 18,000 euros on Saturday. This will clearly help those racecourses which stage week-long meetings, such as Hamburg´s Derby week, Bad Harzburg and particularly Baden-Baden, where the Badener Meile and the Darley Oettingen-Rennen, both Group Two events, are provisionally scheduled for the Thursday of the spring meeting and the “Grosse Woche” respectively.
Many of these issues, including any changes to the dates, status and conditions of European pattern races, and especially the likely effects of Brexit – whether “soft”, ”hard” or “no”- will be discussed at next Thursday´s meeting in London. We shall know more after that.