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Thursday, October 4, 2007


Cheltenham Racecourse is delighted to announce that Jacqui O'Neill, one of the most high-profile women in Jump racing, has agreed to become its Ladies Day Ambassador for 2007/08.

Jacqui will be involved in a number of public and media events in the lead-up to Ladies Day as well as taking a full part in proceedings on the day itself.

Following a successful introduction last season, Ladies Day is becoming an important part of The Festival and is scheduled for Thursday, March 13 in 2008.

Ladies Day at Cheltenham features a number of pre-racing fashion awards, but also includes the presentation of the award for ‘The Outstanding Contribution made by a Lady to Jump Racing’, selected from a short-list made up of nominations from the public.

In 2007, this was won by Heather Atkinson, the senior nurse in the jockeys’ hospital at the racecourse.

In addition, Ladies Day allows Cheltenham to help raise funds for and awareness of Winston's Wish, a locally-based national charity which helps bereaved children and young people rebuild their lives after a family death.

Commenting on the news, Jacqui O'Neill said: “I'm thrilled to become the Ladies Day Ambassador and to help spread the word about this great addition to The Festival. Last season's Ladies Day was done with a real sense of panache and I'm hopeful that we can build even more interest in the events on and around the day in 2008.”

Edward Gillespie, Cheltenham's Managing Director, added: “Everyone in racing knows Jacqui as a stylish, energetic and extremely friendly character and I’m really pleased that she has agreed to accept this role. It is even more special given her life-long connection with the county of Gloucestershire.”

About Jacqui O'Neill

Jacqui, wife of Jackdaws Castle trainer and former dual champion jump jockey Jonjo O'Neill, has strong ties to the home of Jump racing.

She is a Gloucestershire native, having been brought up and schooled in the area - and she and Jonjo were actually married at Cheltenham Racecourse in January, 1997.

Jacqui plays a vital role in Jonjo's successful training career. She helped the Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey turned trainer establish a 70-horse, 50 winners a season yard at Penrith, Cumbria before moving to the state-of-the-art Jackdaws Castle complex at Temple Guiting near Cheltenham in 2001.

Jackdaws Castle sent out 126 winners last season and there are already 49 in the bag this time before the main part of the season gets under way later this month with The Showcase at Cheltenham (Friday, October 19 and Saturday, October 20).

Jonjo once famously said of his wife's influence on his life and career: "Without Jacqui, I wouldn't begin to bother."

Jacqui O'Neill is the epitome of the modern woman, raising a young family, while finding the time to be actively engaged in running one of the most powerful stables in the land, and is often seen representing the stable at the races.


Bucking the trend, not for the first time, the BEBF Trustees have agreed to provide a significant boost to prize money available in EBF Maiden/Novice races on the Flat in 2008. The constant worries about the size of the Levy, the Horseracing Betting Levy Board’s allocations to prize money, the public spats involving TV rights and threats to the future funding of British racing, have provided gloomy reading particularly for breeders and consignors of bloodstock. Therefore, this move by the Trustees will provide some welcome relief.

The recent announcements about the reductions in minimum values in races from Class 3-7 impact on the vast majority of races. The BEBF’s increased allocations for 2008 will lift these minimum values above the 2007 levels.

Details of the increases are contained in the attached sheets. It must be stressed that EBF prize money in two-year-old maiden/novice races cannot be used to achieve the minimum values, but must, at the very least, be added to minimum values. The 96% increase in the BEBF allocation to these races brings the amount to over £525,000. Please note that 97.9% of the two-year-olds in training in 2007 are EBF eligible – and this percentage figure has been pretty consistent over the previous 11 years (please see below).

The increased allocations to the maiden/novice level of EBF races will be just one part of the BEBF’s commitment to prize money on the Flat in 2008. As in 2007, the BEBF will provide prize money on the Flat in 2008 for:

EBF Fillies Nurseries (3) for a total of £38,000
EBF Fillies/Mares Handicaps (30) for a total of £115,500
EBF Classified Races (4) for a total of £15,950
EBF Fillies/Mares Listed Races (25) for a total of £219,500
EBF Feature Races (13) for a total of £43,500
EBF 2YO MAIDEN/NOVICE RACES (299) for a total of £525,955

TOTAL: £958,405

It is likely that the Trustees will be asked to support a few more Fillies’/Mares Handicaps. There are bound to be minor adjustments to the programme for 2008, but BEBF’s allocation to the Flat could reach £1million.

That is not bad for a scheme which was launched in 1983, has already provided well over £20 million in prize money and breeders’ prizes, and was described by the then Home Secretary, later Viscount Whitelaw, as “a splendid example of self-help”. A masterful understatement.

David Brown, Chairman of the BEBF Trustees, commented: “My fellow Trustees enthusiastically endorse the significant increase to the EBF maiden/novice races.

“I do not think any part of the racing/breeding business will look on this as anything but good for all concerned. Difficult times lie ahead, but I hope that our ability to provide some good news will give a boost, at least, to the forthcoming yearling sales.

“The Trustees felt that it was vital at this time to encourage racehorse ownership which can only be a benefit to all breeders.

“It is all down to the support from stallion owners, mare owners and those who make EBF eligibility payments for young stock sired outside Europe.

“I should add that we receive remarkable co-operation from racecourses, and from BHA’s Race Planning Department whose advice and assistance is invaluable.”


1. The significant reduction in the HBLB prize money scheme in 2008 has resulted in reductions in minimum values in Class 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 two-year-old races. The details are:

Class 3 reduces from £9,700 to £9,200 (i.e. -£500)
Class 4 reduces from £6,000 to £5,400 (i.e. -£600)
Class 5 reduces from £4,350 to £3,600 (i.e. -£750)
Class 6 reduces from £3,000 to £2,600 (i.e. -£400)

2. BEBF maiden/novice 2-year-old races total 299 (not including divisions or one Charity race) in 2007. This is 67% or so of the total number of maiden/novice races. The percentage increases to just over 70% when the large number of EBF divided races are included. I understand that there are no plans to introduce more 2-year-old maidens in 2008, except perhaps a few later in the year on all-weather tracks.

3. The breakdown of EBF maidens (not including divisions) in 2007 is:

Class 3 12 races
Class 4 116 races
Class 5 158 races
Class 6 13 races

4. It seems fairest to treat the Class 5 races more beneficially than the others, firstly because they have been hardest hit, and secondly because they represent well over 50% of EBF maidens.

5. On a Class by Class basis, I recommend the following:

Class 3: all 12 races to receive a further £500, in addition to existing EBF support: cost: £6,000

Class 4: all 116 races to receive a further £750, in addition to existing EBF support: cost: £87,000

Class 5: all 158 races to receive a further £1,000, in addition to existing EBF support: cost: £158,000

Class 6: all 13 races to receive a further £500, in addition to existing EBF support: cost £6,500
Total additional cost: £257,500

6. If agreed, support for EBF maiden/novice two-year-old races would be:

Total EBF Support
2007 Additional Support
2008 Total
Class 3 £10,300 £6,000 £16,300
Class 4 £115,150 £87,000 £202,150
Class 5 £135,190 £158,000 £293,190
Class 6 £7,815 £6,500 £14,315

Total £268,455 £257,500 £525,955
(a 96% increase)

EBF prize money cannot be used to achieve minimum values, but must, at the very least, be added to minimum values. Many courses do run EBF races at values in excess of the minimum + EBF support.

7. In these days of gloom about prize money, an announcement of the increase should be greeted all round, particularly by vendors of yearlings and stallion owners.

Any announcement must be made in early October prior to Tattersalls Part I.

For old articles (from 1st March 2000) go to the Newslink Archive

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