RACECOURSES are being asked to sign up to the best-turned-out league which is again being run by Horse Racing Ireland’s Irish Thoroughbred Welfare Council.

The league offers €18,000 in prize money to be divided among stable staff and the competition is divided into bands allowing smaller yards an equal chance of success.

Last year’s inaugural competition saw over 170 individual yards win a best-turned-out prize. These prize were converted into points for the purposes of the competition and each yard was placed in one of three categories, based on its number of runners.

A significant number of racecourses have not yet signed up to the initiative. Bernard Caldwell, chairman of the Irish Stablestaff Association, said: “The best-turned-out league is one of the best things HRI has done for stable staff in recent times. I would ask those tracks who are not participating to reconsider.

“I see the effort put in by grooms to have their horses looking well. When you see someone standing on a bucket to plait a horse’s mane, you know how much they care. I believe that seeing horses looking so well is one of the things racegoers enjoy most when they go racing. We should be doing all we can to encourage it.”

John Osborne, HRI’s equine welfare and bloodstock director, added: “We only ask racecourses to notify us of which yards have won best-turned-out prizes. We aggregate these and allocate the points. It’s a small inconvenience but worth everything. We’d love to have every racecourse involved.

“The 2021 league showed how smaller yards often outperform in terms of winning best-turned-out prizes. It is the truest reflection of the standard of care being given across the industry.”

Gain series

There was good news for smaller trainers this week when Gain Equine Nutrition confirmed it would again sponsor a series of eight races for lower-grade horses between April and October.

Last year’s inaugural Gain The Advantage Series was won by Toomevara trainer Ray Hackett who received €5,000 in Gain products. There are also breeders’ prizes and a weekend away for a groom.

The 2022 series will adhere to the same format, featuring a variety of race conditions to cater for different trainers and horses throughout the season with an increase prize fund of 50% for each race in the series.

Each trainer will receive points for their successes over the course of the series through a grading process, which is designed to give equal opportunity to each trainer to win the overall prize.

The number of points per win or placing in each leg will be based on the number of winners the trainer recorded throughout 2021.

The series will commence at Cork on April 16th and then proceed to Navan, Ballinrobe, Fairyhouse, Tipperary, Killarney and Naas, with the final race in Leopardstown on October 15th.