Although Italy is not as well known in the modern racing world as other European powers like Britain, France, Germany and Ireland, horse racing there has a very long history, dating back to Roman times. It remains a popular sport among Italians today and there are racetracks in many parts of the country, the best known being the Capannelle in Rome and the San Siro in Milan – close by the famous football stadium of the same name.
The standards of Italy’s top races are quite high, with seven races there currently holding International Group 1 status. They attract regular participation from some of Europe’s top owners and trainers.
Hong Kong racing fans will no doubt be familiar with some of the big names in Italian racing….Frankie Dettori…. Mirco Demuro….Luca Cumani….
Recently, however, I’ve learnt the worrying news that Italian racing authority has decided to slash funding for racecourses in 2012. Reports indicate that the racecourses will receive 40 per cent less revenue this year, which coupled with a declining trend in betting turnover, will mean prize money has to be cut by a similar percentage.
This is likely to mean many Italian horsemen and racing staff facing pay cuts or even losing their jobs. It will also reduce the attractiveness of Italy’s major races to connections from other parts of Europe and put a big question mark on the future sustainability of the country’s racing industry.
I understand that representatives of various racing bodies will be meeting the Italian Government next week to try to find ways of resolving these problems, though this may not be easy given the severe financial constraints Italy is currently facing as a result of the ongoing Eurodebt crisis. But let’s hope for the sake of horse racing fans worldwide that more positive news will be emerging soon…..