Two important milestones are looming for the Great British Bonus; firstly, Sunday's final stage 3 registration deadline for 2019 Flat fillies and also the landmark figure of £2m paid out in prizes, a figure that the scheme is set to reach within a year of its launch.
With racing cancelled last spring, the launch of the scheme was pushed back to late May, ahead of the resumption of racing in June, but the delay did not affect uptake and was quick to start paying out the bonuses of up to £20,000 for fully eligible British-bred fillies and mares, both on the Flat and over jumps.
So what is the immediate appeal of the Great British Bonus for connections of eligible fillies? Scheme manager Grant Pritchard-Gordon is quick to highlight the rewards.
"At least 'double the money' is the most obvious attraction, but it is the ability to win multiple bonuses that provides the unique difference. There has never before been a scheme that has brought such life changing bonuses to owners and breeders," he says.
"Breeders have seen a positive uplift in GBB eligible foals and yearlings through the sales ring. Owners have received bonuses that far exceed prize money earnings. British stallion farm have seen a very positive reaction from breeders, who appreciate the benefits of producing 100 per cent GBB eligible stock. The Great British Bonus is a lifeline to the racing and breeding industry and it is probably providing the only good news around at present."
Since the scheme celebrated its first winner with Pelekai at Newcastle on 2nd June, the scheme has rewarded over 110 winners, paying out more than £1.7m. That figure includes six multiple winners on the Flat and nine multiple winners over jumps and two horses have each netted £60,000 in bonuses for their connections Blackberry (Brazen Beau) on the Flat and the recent Gr.2 Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle winner Anythingforlove (Black Sam Bellamy) (main picture). The latter, a half-sister to the Gr.1 Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Sizing John, is owned by a 20-strong syndicate who are reaping the benefits, along with breeder Bryan Mayoh.
Another recent black-type winner to earn multiple bonuses is Molly Ollys Wishes (pictured above), who triumphed in the Listed Warwick Mares' Hurdle on 15th February for owner-breeder Dean Pugh. It was the third win in a row for the mare, who was bred from Pugh's sole mare, and her second bonus, with the money benefiting the charity for which she is named, which cares for terminally ill children.
Among the slew of positive stories among the bonus winners last year were the juvenile filly Brazen Belle (Brazen Beau), who is raced by her owner-breeder Kevin Nicholson, an electrician from South Yorkshire, who only decided to race his filly after she failed to sell for £5,000 at Doncaster. Trained by David O'Meara, the filly bagged £40,000 in bonuses, far exceeding her racecourse earnings of just over £13,000.
Other syndicates to enjoy a substantial pay-out from the Great British Bonus is The Sky Partnership, who campaign the Lucy Wadham-trained Martello Sky. As a daughter of Martaline, the five-year-old is only eligible for 50 per cent of the bonus, but has netted three such prizes, winning a bumper and a maiden hurdle at Fakenham last autumn, and following up in a novice hurdle at Market Rasen last Sunday.
As highlighted by these winners, the scheme benefits operations of all sizes, with the list of winners including those bred by such as Godolphin, Shadwell and Juddmonte, as well as homebred fillies from broodmare bands firmly in the single digits.
It is a mark of the popularity of the scheme that Pritchard-Gordon expects the number of fully qualified fillies from the 2019 foal crop to be up on that of 2018.
"The numbers are actually considerably up on the 2018 crop. Until the final figures are produced on Monday, I cannot give an exact number, but there will certainly be 25 per cent more fillies running for GBB bonuses," he explains. "The number of opportunities has much increased, with these 2019 fillies able to win bonuses in auction and median auction races, as well as the programme for three-year-olds."As well as anticipating an increase in both runners and races, Pritchard-Gordon is looking to the future with the scheme.
"We want to see very many more bonus winners, with lucky owners shouting from the rooftops when their fillies win multiple bonuses!" he says. "In terms of milestones, we want to substantially build on our record of bonus distribution. With an expanded race programme, there is a reasonable expectation to sail past the likely £2m distributed in the schemes first 12 months. We want to build again on the scheme's influence in the sales ring and persuade as many breeders as possible to join us on this road to survival."