BHA approve Good Friday plan
The British Horseracing Authority has confirmed it has approved the principle of racing on Good Friday next year ahead of the publication of the 2014 fixture list.
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Racing's rulers agreed to take applications from racecourses to stage meetings on the bank holiday last month, despite opposition from some racing professionals, as open days in the training centres of Lambourn and Middleham are traditionally staged on Good Friday.
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.
A BHA press release read: "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 final composition of the fixture list for 2014 is to be announced next week and will be influenced by which racecourses or racecourse groups have signed the prize money agreements which were unveiled last weekend.
However, the BHA confirmed that the fixture list will not exceed 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."
As was revealed on Tuesday, the National Hunt season is to be better defined, with the final day of the season at Sandown in April - now a jumps-only card - followed by a four-day break.
This break was agreed in consultation with the Professional Jockeys' Association, while an increased break of nine days has been programmed in August, at the request of National Hunt jockeys.
The BHA has enhanced the sport's "principal days" with the idea being to optimise the days when the most people get involved 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, which encompass Saturdays plus Boxing Day and New Year's Day, in 2014.
The BHA has also stepped in to recalibrate the balance of the fixture list, 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 National Hunt fixtures throughout the core season.
The northern jumps programme has also been addressed, with eight fixtures schedule for September as compared to four in 2013 and 13 in October from 12 in 2013.
British Champions Weekend has been confirmed for 2014, with Dubai Future Champions Day at Newmarket moving the day immediately preceding Qipco British Champions Day, creating a £4.5m British Champions Weekend with six Group One races over the course of the two days.
The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon has been moved to a Sunday as part of an overall boost to Sunday racing.
Bittar 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."