The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has decided not to grant an exemption to Newcastle Racecourse for 2015, which was necessary for the course to stage fixtures under floodlights at its proposed converted All Weather Track towards the end of next year.
At a meeting on Monday, the BHA Board considered the requirement for Newcastle to be formally exempted from the application of Rule (F)26.1, which stipulates that in each day’s programme of racing, there must be two races of a mile or upwards of the minimum aggregate distance of two miles and a half.
With Newcastle’s current proposal for a converted All Weather Track only including floodlights over a straight mile, the course will be ineligible for floodlit fixtures in the second half of 2015 (due to its planned construction timetable), but discussions will continue with Arena Racing Company (ARC) on this and related elements of their proposal.
The BHA Board also agreed that further consultation should take place in order that the fullest possible range of options for an All Weather Track in the north be reviewed ahead of the compilation of the 2016 Fixture List. This will include further discussions with Catterick Racecourse, which has recently confirmed in writing to BHA that it intends to proceed with a detailed application for planning consent for a fully floodlit All Weather Track to replace its existing Flat turf track.
BHA Chief Executive Paul Bittar said:
“There is a general consensus amongst stakeholders that there would be benefits to the sport from an All Weather Track in the north. This is backed up by evidence of clear demand from horsemen as established in our recent review, as well as through formal engagement with stakeholders.
“We weighed up the advantages of introducing a floodlit northern All Weather Track at Newcastle in the latter part of 2015 against the negative race planning impact and associated implications for the sport as a whole of granting an exemption to a key Rule of Racing. As a result, the Board decided there was insufficient evidence at this time to justify granting an exemption to the Rule for the 2015 Fixture List.
“BHA will continue discussions with ARC around its plans for Newcastle, including matters relating to the existing turf track, plus other interested parties, including Catterick Racecourse.
“This is clearly a significant issue for the long-term structure and development of British Racing, and BHA is tasked with reaching the best outcome for the sport as a whole.
“The choice facing the sport is likely to be clearer next Spring, and will be revisited by the BHA Board then, in good time for the compilation of the 2016 Fixture List and related approvals for new or converted racetracks to enter the Fixture Allocation Process.”