Headlines in this weeks racing Post have centred mainly on trainers packing in, including Jeremy Noseda who, not so long ago was considered a 'major player' in the trainers ranks with some superbly bred, classy horses and an owners list to make anyone envious as he enjoyed the patronage of some of the world’s leading owners and breeders.
Mark Brisbane was another well-known name. Mark was struggling to make ends meet as his string fell from a one time high of just short of 100 horses to a mere handful. Lack of numbers is a big problem as fashions wax and wane even more abruptly than they did years ago in our ever increasingly fickle business. But, the problem faced by trainers struggling to make ends meet is not just down to a lack of support from owners. Getting paid is a huge problem for many and recently these issues have been given more and more column inches as the problem intensifies.
Trainers’ mental health (often triggered by the financial stresses of training) has been well documented and today we read that more trainers – and some syndicate owners, involved with EPDS are resorting to legal action against John Powell: EPDS’ managing director who “is believed to have financial problems” according to the Racing Post.
Weatherbys have resorted to buying a large share of a debt collection agency and the BHA’s chief executive Nick Rust has promised me faithfully that the BHA will help trainers by strengthening the position of trainers left vulnerable by none paying owners. As president of the NTF I have worked towards this end with Nick for the last eighteen months and we have agreed a way forward however, disappointingly none of the agreed suggestions have been actioned……....yet, but I live in hope.
In today’s Racing Post regarding this latest mounting trainer’s debt a BHA spokesman said: "The BHA cannot comment on specific cases or speculation around specific cases. More generally though, when a training agreement exists between the owner and trainer, should any unpaid training fees be reported to the BHA then it has the authority to look into those claims”.
Really? I mean REALLY???? My experience is they might take a ‘cursory’ look at bad debts crippling a yard but they do little or nothing about it, despite the existence of training agreements. My own experience in recent years has shown that had the forfeit list been used as it was intended, and as it was used years ago, we would not have suffered as we did with one owner who’s business is dependent on keeping on the right side of the Financial Services Authority.
It was quite an extraordinary situation with a significant six figure sum involved and had the forfeit list been properly employed, debt collectors would not have needed to go knocking on the proverbial door. The whole experience was unbelievable and should never have occurred but I have kept every shred of evidence (it makes compelling reading) in case I decide to sign that publisher’s contract after all and, what happened next is even more intriguing.
In the meantime I am very hopeful on behalf of all trainers that Nick Rust, the BHA, and myself on behalf of the NTF will eventually manage to set in stone a set of procedures that will really make a difference.