Prior to publication of the 2014 British Horseracing Fixture List, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) today revealed the headline elements of next year’s racing calendar.
The final composition of the Fixture List is to be announced next week and will be influenced by which racecourses or racecourse groups have signed Prize Money Agreements. However, the BHA today confirmed that the Fixture List will be no greater in size than the 1,464 fixtures programmed in 2013.
Paul Bittar, Chief Executive of BHA, said:
“The BHA Board agreed to delay signing off on the full Fixture List in order to allow further racecourses time to reach Prize Money Agreements with the Horsemen’s Group and BHA.
“Whether racecourses have or have not signed Prize Money Agreements or have made a specific commitment to prize money will have an influence on the allocation of the outstanding fixtures controlled by the BHA.”
At their meeting on Monday, the BHA Board approved the following proposals for the 2014 Fixture List:
The principle of staging racing on Good Friday was supported. The details of which courses will race on Good Friday is still to be confirmed, though the fixtures will remain under the control of BHA. Racecourses were asked to submit applications which covered specific BHA criteria, including prize money commitment on the day, forecast attendances, support for participants and stakeholders, and overall net contribution to the sport. Extensive consultation also took place with stakeholders and interested parties enabling the Board to assess the proposal with all feedback taken into consideration and to take a view in the best interests of the sport overall.
The Jumps season is to be better defined by a break after Sandown Park’s April meeting. A four-day break for the professionals in Jump racing has been programmed after the April meeting at Sandown Park, which will now be a Jumps-only day. This will provide greater definition to the Jump racing calendar and ensure that the Sandown Park meeting is a fitting finale to the season.
This end-of-season break has long been an objective for the industry and could only be achieved in 2014 with the assistance of The Jockey Club and Arena Racing Company as well as Kelso, Ludlow, Towcester and Wetherby racecourses, as well as the Levy Board for its flexibility in funding additional Sunday meetings.
This break was agreed in consultation with the PJA. In addition to the April break an increased break of nine days has been programmed in August, at the request of Jump jockeys.
Enhancing Racing’s principal days. The objective of this initiative is to optimise the days when the most people can engage with the sport by providing a minimum of two premier meetings and two support meetings on each occasion.
This has been achieved for 52 of the 54 principal days (Saturdays plus Boxing Day and New Year’s Day) in 2014. The only days when this was not achieved are the first Saturday of the year and Boxing Day. In 2013 the criteria below would not have been met on 15 of the principal days
A premier meeting must put up a minimum of £135,000 of prize money in Summer (April & May only for Jumps) or £115,000 in Winter (both codes) in order to qualify for Levy funding. In addition the support meetings must provide at least £45,000 in Summer and £40,000 in Winter on the Flat, or £40,000 all year round for Jumps.
The next stage of the process will be to review those days on which there is an excess of premium racing. This aspect will be an area that will be examined in the compilation of the 2015 Fixture List.
Recalibrating the balance of the Fixture List. Field sizes at all-weather fixtures at the beginning of 2013 were poor. This was partly due to the fact that the closure of Hereford and Folkestone racecourses resulted in a number of racecourse fixtures being transferred to the all-weather, resulting in over 21% of the Fixture List being all-weather fixtures.
This has been addressed for 2014 by the BHA taking greater control of the allocation process and reducing the distribution of all-weather fixtures by 21 in total, 15 of these being removed from January to March and being replaced by 13 additional Jumps fixtures throughout the core Jumps season. This also ensures that the Fixture List meets the 40:40:20 ratio aspired to by the BHA Board, split between Flat turf, Jumps and all-weather.
Addressing the Northern Jumps programme. Following a request for additional opportunities from the NTF and Northern based trainers, eight Northern Jumps fixtures have been scheduled in September (compared to four in 2013) and 13 in October (compared to 12 in 2013).
Several of these extra fixtures will be twilight fixtures following a successful trial in Summer/Autumn 2013 which has seen good field sizes and competitive racing. This has been agreed with the Levy Board.
Boosting Sunday racing. The BHA’s commitment to boosting Sunday racing continues in 2014 with the threshold prize money which racecourses are required to contribute to obtain Levy funding being raised to £45,000 in summer and £40,000 in winter. In addition, the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon has now been moved to a Sunday and in 2014 will be staged on the weekend prior to its current position in the calendar.
British Champions Weekend. Confirmation that Dubai Future Champions Day at Newmarket has been moved to the day immediately preceding QIPCO British Champions Day, creating a £4.5m British Champions Weekend with six Group 1 races over the course of the two days.
Paul Bittar, Chief Executive of the BHA, said:
“It is our responsibility to tailor the Fixture List to best meet the needs of all of our customer and stakeholder groups. The 2014 Fixture List has been modelled in a manner designed to balance the capability of the horse population to service the Fixture List while also producing the best possible financial returns to the sport.
“For 2014 we have sought to deliver a more balanced Fixture List, one that is structured to better meet the requirements of the current horse population. As a result, there has been a reduction in the number of Flat all-weather fixtures between January and March and an increase in the number of Jump fixtures, both in the core winter period and outside of that to meet specific demand from Northern based trainers and owners.
“We have also taken steps to strengthen the racing on offer on our principal days so that British Racing has the best opportunities to promote our sport, attract substantial crowds and ensure that revenues are maximised.
“It is in everyone’s interests that the racing we stage is competitive. A number of the initiatives introduced for 2014 reflect our commitment to address the areas that have produced sub-optimum results with regard to competitive racing. As evidenced by the recently announced Prize Money Agreements, I am hopeful we are entering a period which enables us to maximise both the revenue the Fixture List generates and the subsequent return via prize money to Horsemen.”
Rod Street, Chief Executive of Great British Racing, said:
“We have long been advocates of making the sport more customer-focussed and these new initiatives are progressive.
“Good Friday will deliver significant new revenues and give our many different customers a compelling reason to participate on an important leisure day. A well-coordinated national promotion of Good Friday fixtures will ensure it is a special racing day. It also provides the opportunity to give more exposure to the excellent stable Open Days as part of a broader publicity campaign. We support the BHA in placing minimum performance criteria against the Good Friday fixtures they award, which will promote good quality racing and customer led marketing initiatives.
“Sandown’s new finale to the Jumps season is also a step forward, made all the more significant with a four day break. Clearly defined seasons and championships make it easier to promote racing to the wider public. It’s a credit to all concerned that we’ve managed to make this happen”
“GBR also welcomes the BHA’s benchmarking of the principal Saturday and holiday fixtures to ensure minimum standards of prize money are met, which should help ensure the attractiveness of racing on days when more customers are able to participate.”