All in a name

It was almost bound to happen, and of course I had noticed the name of the winner of the 2:30 at Cheltenham before the race began. Although horses don’t know their names (or do they?), and you can call your horse Pegasus and it won’t necessarily fly home ahead of the others, it’s difficult not to notice a horse’s name if it rings a bell with you.

This sometimes works to one’s advantage: when Roseate Tern was second in the Oaks in 1989 I was very engaged with the conservation of this gorgeous bird (see Fighting for Birds Chapter 3) and had a small wager on her, and by the time Willie Carson rode her home in the Yorkshire Oaks that August I invested more generously on the basis of proven form rather than a fondness for Sterna dougallii.

There are rules about naming thoroughbred racehorses;  each horse has to have a unique name and it must be 18 characters or fewer; the name can’t be rude (though some slip through thanks to ingenuity); you can only use the name of a living famous person with their permission; you can’t call your horse after any of the greats of racing (eg Arkle) and you can’t be blatant about advertising (although Inglorious is available).

The winner of yesterday’s 2:30 at Cheltenham, in heavy going, was called Singlefarmpayment.

The single farm payment is the payment that goes to landowners just for being farmers (provided they don’t infringe a few simple laws). These remnants are the shadows of direct subsidies which used to be made to farmers out of the Common Agricultural Policy in the olden  days. No longer are farmers incentivised to produce huge amounts of wine, olive oil or wheat, but the payments, reduced bit by bit over time, still are paid, in the order of £2+bn pa in England and Wales.

When the lightweight Singlefarmpayment ran up the Cheltenham hill, in cold wind and drizzle, on its sixth birthday (all horses have their ‘official birthdays on 1 Jan for simplicity) it took home a prize of £12,512 for winning – although some of the winnings go to the jockey, trainer, breeder etc so the owner can’t spend it all. You’d think that Singlefarmpayment might be enjoying an extra carrot today though!

Singlefarmpayment is trained by Tom Lacey and owned by a Heather Haddock. I can’t discover anything about its owner though it would be very amusing if Singlefarmpament were owned by a relative of the Devon farmer Richard Haddock (see here, here, here). I’m not the only one to have spotted the name and you’d have to say that it isn’t a name that most people would choose is it? I’d quite like to think that some rich farmer decided to invest some of her (or his) money in a racehorse and then decided to name it after one of his (or her) surer forms of income. Singlefarmpayment may be a horse to follow (although it was well weighted in this handicap under bottom weight in these testing conditions) until the handicapper catches up with him, and farmers have been following the single farm payments for years because the taxpayer hasn’t caught up with them yet.

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  1. Roderick Leslie says:

    Here's a question for 2016, which no one seems to be asking: what happens to farm subsidies if England leaves the EU ? Particularly relevant as an awful lot of Eurosceptic Conservatives seem linked to farming. Presumably they assume all will go on as before, a £3.2 billion per annum, £400/family/ per annum charge of the taxpayer, focussed almost entirely on further increasing production regardless of the downstream (!) consequences. Worth remembering that the £3.2 billion is made up of some money (is it 50% ?) paid direct by the treasury, matched by the balance from Europe (from money the UK has paid into the EU pot). No doubt the argument is that it is worth the Treasury paying because we'd lose the matched EU funding if they didn't, and as its our money anyway we should get it back.

    The Treasury isn't notorious for its love of this sort of subsidy so what might it do if Exit occurs (not Brexit, because the Scots will leave and stay in the EU) ? Will looking after the rich landowning friends of the Conservative party fight off the prospect of a valuable grab back of hard cash ? What prospect is there of George Osborne making up the balance lost from EU payments ? Might not George Osborne at least look to plug some of the other holes in his plans - especially the unavoidable extra spending on flood protection - by demanding that farmers (and Grouse Moor managers) contribute to the solutions - new approaches to catchment management - rather than continue making the problem worse ?

  2. Dennis Ames says:

    Could be if we leave the EU(it is never going to happen so anyone can dream of hundreds of circumstances farmers will be hurt by leaving)then the wildlife organisations and conservationists will get to run the country.
    Now there is a dream(maybe a nightmare)no need to worry though it is never going to happen.
    Why is it of all the handouts that go to lots of different areas the only ones moaned about are these SFP to farmers.
    I bet some of these SFPs that the RSPB get make some employees salary fat.


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