04/16/2013 2:30PM

Italian racing season in peril


In decline for years, the horse racing industry in Italy is facing a crisis, with the federal government ministry administering purse payments blocking the distribution of purses earned from late last summer through December 2012.

No Italian races have been run so far in 2013, and horsemen who earned purse money late last year have no idea if, or when, they will be paid their winnings, according to a report Tuesday in the Racing Post. Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture currently is blocking purse payments, and at the moment, with elections pending, Italy is between parliamentary governments, with ministries in many cases unable to undertake action of any sort.

The present Italian racing impasse has been in the making for more than a decade. Until 2000, the Italian racing body – called UNIRE until a 2011 name change to ASSI – was self-sustaining, funding purses through Italian betting, but beginning that year, purses began to require governmental subsidies. Prize money declined through 2008 until a general strike led to a flow of governmental cash to the racing industry between 2009 and 2011, but the global financial crisis hit Italy particularly hard, and widespread austerity measures have dried up governmental funding for horse racing.

The Racing Post reported that because of Italy’s failure to pay purses, the German Jockey Club is advocating a boycott of Italian races by the European Pattern Committee, which sanctions officially recognized group and listed races in European racing jurisdictions.