A race for survival

RACING in the Island has been taking place since 1789. Perhaps not as significant in local history as the Battle of Jersey, just eight years earlier, nevertheless, an important aspect of local heritage. So, it came as a shock when the present Jersey Race Club announced that the future of the sport in Jersey was under threat. The cancellation due to Coronavirus of, first the Easter meeting, then eventually all other fixtures, brought the Club almost to the point of financial ruin.

Horse racing at Les Landes has been nowhere to be seen this season because of Covid-19 lockdown measures invoked on the Island. Picture:DAVID FERGUSON.
Horse racing at Les Landes has been nowhere to be seen this season because of Covid-19 lockdown measures invoked on the Island. Picture:DAVID FERGUSON.

At the end of July, the Club said it would need to raise £100,000 in order to ensure the future of the sport in the Island and announced a crowdfunding exercise to raise half that sum.

Launched on 5 August the fund quickly gained support with individual donations ranging from £5 to £500 with many donors providing words of support and encouragement. George Baker, the Surrey-based trainer who has frequently brought horses to race at Les Landes, wrote: ‘Very good luck guys. So many happy days at your wonderful racecourse, and I look forward to being back for the first meeting next year! I will spread the word.’

Many donors are visitors to the Island; typically, Julie and Rich wrote: ‘We hope you meet your target, we love coming over from England every year for the racing’ and Rob Smith ‘I’m a York and Sedgefield member in the north of England, racing is one of my great passions and I really want to see you guys survive. I’ll be sure to come down to Jersey next summer for a meeting.’ One anonymous donor wrote the contribution was ‘…in the expectation that the Club will have better financial management in the future’. Others to provide financial aid include UK racehorse trainers Neil Mulholland, John Berry and Rebecca Bastiman. Altogether, around a hundred individual contributions have been made.

By the end of August, the crowdfunding had reached almost 15% of the target, but donations have slowed down significantly since then and the total raised to date is a long way short of target at around £8,000. Local racehorse owner Simon Harrison-White, co-opted to help get the Club back into the black, agrees the fund was launched without sufficient publicity and wasn’t even on the Club’s website. ‘Some people asked whether it was a scam’, he said. That has now been put right with a direct link on jerseyraceclub.com which he hopes will give the campaign a boost.

Whilst immediate fund raising continues, work has also begun on developing a long-term financial plan and, in the expectation that it will be able to carry out a full programme, the Club has published race dates for next year, starting with the traditional Easter Monday meeting on 5th April. There will be two meetings a month through the summer with the last fixture on August bank holiday. As Simon Harrison-White points out, it’s all subject to two key factors, finance and coronavirus, but he is optimistic that, with continuing support, the first of those will be achieved. The other is outside everyone’s control.

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