The Jockey Club ends contract to run Blenheim Horse Trials

  • THE Jockey Club has ended its agreement to run Blenheim Horse Trials two years into its five-year contract.

    The 2022 event was the last year the British four-star ran under The Jockey Club banner, owing to the “current economic climate”. The Jockey Club confirmed to H&H that there was a break clause in the contract. The news is a blow for eventing. Riders had voiced strong support for The Jockey Club’s involvement in eventing and the opportunities it could bring, from both a sport and a business perspective.

    British Eventing (BE) chief executive Helen West told H&H it is “really sad” that organising Blenheim has not worked out for The Jockey Club.

    “We are concerned from BE’s perspective for the sport, because it is such a key fixture,” she said.

    Ms West added that she has a call planned with Roy Cox, Blenheim Estate’s managing director, today (Tuesday, 8 November) to make a plan.

    “I don’t want to lose it as a fixture and my understanding is that the palace doesn’t want to lose the event, they want to have it there,” she said.

    The next step would be to find someone to run the event.

    Ms West said she will speak to the palace first to make a plan, before any tender process, gathering expressions of interest or approaching those who put their names forward to run Blenheim previously. She added that any tender process would be transparent. The dates have already been submitted to the FEI calendar for 2023, and approved.

    “We are keen to keep it and to find a way of doing so. There’s lots of options to explore,” she said, stressing the importance of the event.

    “It’s important in terms of that pathway to five-star. We only have three CCI4*-Ls in the country. And that’s not to mention the eight- and nine-year-old championships, which is a key four-star short fixture for those horses. It’s a important fixture for us, for our calendar.”

    Mr Cox said it has “been a pleasure” working with The Jockey Club over the past two years, which has “fostered enduring relationships, beyond the event itself”.

    “I would like to thank everyone at The Jockey Club and all those connected to the event, for all their hard work getting the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials back to a world-class event after the pandemic,” he said. “While we are sad to say goodbye, we look forward to many more international horse trials on the estate.”

    The Oxfordshire horse trials was run by BE prior to The Jockey Club. In August 2020, BE announced it would no longer be organising the event, which had already been cancelled that year owing to Covid. The reason given at the time was that the BE board reassessed the organisation structure of the event, and the decision was made that BE would “focus on the delivery of core sport”.

    In December 2020, the trustees of Blenheim Palace announced that The Jockey Club had been awarded a five-year contract as Blenheim Horse Trials organisers, following a competitive tender process.

    Ian Renton, The Jockey Club’s managing director of Jockey Club Racecourses West, said that the current economic climate is “unfortunately going to have an impact on us all”.

    “We have therefore made the difficult decision to end our contract with the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials,” he added.

    “We are proud to have led the way in eventing in Britain as we emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, but we now feel the time is right to concentrate on our core mission of acting for the long-term benefit of British horseracing, with our profits being reinvested into that sport.

    “Going forward, The Jockey Club will continue to work with the wider equestrian world. With Aintree International Equestrian Centre, we are able to offer a world-class facility, and we will continue enthusiastically to support the invaluable work of Retraining of Racehorses across all of our venues.

    “I’d like to thank the teams at Blenheim Palace and British Eventing for all their support. It’s a wonderful event and I wish the next organisers all the best.”

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