Gold for Cheltenham and Fakenham but improvement needed at other tracks
The Racehorse Owners Association will introduce new categories for the two most improved tracks in 2017 as part of its Gold Standard awards which seek to encourage racecourses, large and small, to provide a good raceday experience for owners.
Six large tracks and six small courses hold Gold Standard status for 12 months, with Cheltenham and Fakenham muscling in on the groups for the 2016 award-giving, replacing Newmarket's July course and Kempton respectively.
But in a bid to encourage all racecourses to improve, particularly those who might be some way off attaining Gold Standard status, the two most improved courses in each category will be recognised next year.
Alan Pickering, chairman of the ROA's raceday committee, said: "It's sad to see there are still some courses – large and small – who continue to fall some way behind the rest when it come to owners' raceday experience.
"We'll maintain a dialogue with all courses and seek to make improvements by encouragement. The ROA survey in 2016 clearly showed the correlation between owners' raceday experience and ownership retention levels, and we look forward to working with those courses who don't meet the minimum requirements in 2017 and beyond."
He added: "Many of those courses that demonstrated excellence in 2015 have hit even higher heights this year, while other courses have upped their game considerably, and it's pleasing to welcome some new award winners.
"There were also several courses that just missed out and, as a result of these near-misses, next year will see the addition of two new awards – the most improved large and small racecourse.
"In addition to providing encouragement to those who've nearly attained Gold Standard status, these new awards will hopefully incentivise those energetic racecourse managers who are some way off attaining the standard but could win a most-improved award."
One racecourse from each section will be named as their respective category's 'Racecourse of the Year' at the annual ROA Horseracing Awards to be held in London on Thursday, December 1.
2016 Gold Standard award winners
Large racecourses: Ascot, Ayr, Cheltenham, Chester, Haydock, York
Small racecourses: Fakenham, Hamilton, Market Rasen, Musselburgh, Newton Abbot, Nottingham