Chelmsford asks BHA for extra meetings to stage turf racing in 2019
Chelmsford racecourse has written to the BHA asking for additional fixtures in 2019 in order to stage turf racing for the first time, including under floodlights.
The track’s management also hopes to host turf action before and after the traditional bookends of the season – the Lincoln and November Handicap meetings at Doncaster – and has ambitions for a European Breeders’ Cup-type meeting.
Chelmsford, owned by Betfred founder Fred Done, was allotted 63 all-weather fixtures this year but hopes to add between 14 to 16 turf meetings in 2019 if the BHA agrees to its request.
The course’s managing director Phil Siers said the total investment for the turf track and facilities associated with it would be £3 million and that it was approaching the first £1m of spend already.
Management has already begun work on laying out the turf track, which it admits will be tight as it would lie within the mile-and-half-a-furlong all-weather course. The turf is being grown elsewhere, with plans for it to be laid a year in advance of racing taking place.
Siers said: “It should be available for racing from about April next year so we’re looking for an initial programme that would be in the early part of the year and in the later part around the end of the season, with possibly one or two events during the summer.
“The following year we’d expect to try to launch a programme pre-Lincoln to give our customers the potential benefit of early racing on turf.
“We’re also keen to offer UK racing as a new proposition for international customers. We could have something quite unique: turf racing under lights. We could extend the night turf race programme to mid-March and the start of April through to October or November, and with us having the flexibility with lights we could even have a day/night card.”
Siers said Chelmsford’s experience with horses being balloted out of races suggested it would attract runners.
“It seems there’s an opportunity there for us. We think there’s a definite demand for it,” he added.
“This year Chelmsford City is putting in £5.3m of prize-money and we’d like to extend that,” he added. “We see that figure increasing substantially, in the order of £1.5m extra once we get turf racing.
“This track has been levy-generative so, again, not only are we increasing prize-money we’re also creating levy for distribution among all 60 tracks.”
Chelmsford’s application to the BHA also says it “is committed to delivering a suitable European Breeders’ Cup-type championship festival to further deliver a new £1m-plus international payday for our horsemen”.
Were the BHA to refuse Chelmsford additional fixtures, Siers said the course would look to transfer some of its meetings from the all-weather to turf.
“The turf track will launch in 2019 irrespective of any additional fixtures,” he claimed.
Siers added: “We’re an up-and-coming racecourse. We’re very interested in working with the BHA and our horsemen to improve Chelmsford City racecourse as a venue for all our horsemen and we want to embrace turf racing going forward.”
The BHA confirmed it had received Chelmsford’s applications.
Media manager Robin Mounsey said:”The BHA has received an application from Chelmsford City racecourse to lay down an additional turf track and, separately, to host a number of additional fixtures on the turf track. The BHA board will now consider the applications.”
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