The BHB has approved four all-weather tracks and granted them permission to bid for 2006 fixtures.

The four tracks — Great Leighs, Newmarket, Newbury and Kempton Park — obtained the green light following recommendations from the New Racecourses Committee, which rated each application against the BHB’s guidelines for the development of new racecourses.

Now it has secured BHB approval, Kempton Park will close for some seven months to build its all-weather track, with a view to running the first all-weather fixtures in January 2006. The course will only run four meetings — two in March, one in April and one on 2 May — before closing. From early May, Kempton’s 2005 fixtures will be moved to other tracks in the Racecourse Holdings Trust circuit. The Kempton Board will finalise the construction timetable for the all-weather track in March.

“We are delighted to receive BHB support for our scheme. We believe we can take the quality of all-weather racing to a new level and evolve into the top all weather racecourse in Europe, as well as maintaining the prestige of our jump programme,” says the Managing Director of Kempton Park, Julian Thick. “Our plans offer significant benefits, both for us and for the rest of the industry and we are keen to press ahead.”

Kempton will replace flat turf races with all-weather fixtures, while jump racing will continue as before.

By contrast, Newmarket envisages all-weather races to run alongside flat turf racing. The course had already received permission to run all-weather track fixtures when it applied in 2003 and 2004, but it had to resubmit an application for 2006, which was granted yesterday.

Similarly, Great Leighs, in Essex, had to re-apply for permission to join the 2006 fixture list. “We have been approved for several years now,” says course spokeswoman Pippa Cuckson. “For us, this is simply a renewal. What’s new is that we [Great Leighs, Kempton, Newbury and Newmarket] will be the four that go forward for the fixture allocation process.”

The course is brand-new and the track is currently under construction. “We hope to be racing in spring 2006,” says Cuckson.

Newbury was the fourth course to obtain BHB approval, which is subject to the course’s confirmation that it wants to join the 2006 fixture list. Newbury will run the all-weather fixtures in addition to its flat turf and jumping races.

The BHB is considering allowing two more tracks — Musselburgh and Sedgefield — to bid for 2006 fixtures. The new racecourse committee will hold further discussion with Musselburgh before submitting its recommendation in time for the BHB Board meeting on 7 March. Sedgefield, on the other hand, saw its application accepted in 2004 for 2005. Northern Racing, which runs the course, is now considering whether it wants to apply for 2006.

The BHB has clarified to applicants that “the way in which fixtures are to be funded and allocated in 2006 remains uncertain.”
However, the Board is striving to ensure that all flat racecourses will be able to bid for both existing and newly-created BHB National and Regional fixtures. Other opportunities available to courses will be to transfer existing fixtures from within their own group’s list or to buy existing fixtures from other courses.