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All-Weather Championships finals day to move to Newcastle from 2022

Newcastle: set to stage the new £1 million championships
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Newcastle is set to be the new home for the £1 million All-Weather Championships finals day on Good Friday next year, as Arena Racing Company announced a raft of initiatives in a press conference on Monday.

Among them was the creation of a new 'Winter Million' jumps meeting at Lingfield at the end of January, while the course, the host of the finals day since 2014, will now stage a £395,000 'Vase' meeting on Good Friday.

The move to Newcastle, where all-weather racing was introduced in 2016, strengthens the sporting links between Arc's owners the Reuben Brothers and the city, with the brothers holding a ten per cent stake in Newcastle United since its recent takeover.

Arc's managing director for the racing division Mark Spincer said: "I think that is great news and if you look at the work that has gone into Newcastle in the last five years it's no surprise.

"We've been very well supported in the transfer of the fixtures from turf to the all-weather. We have seen some phenomenal horses run at Newcastle and now is the right time for us to move it there."

The move was welcomed by champion all-weather trainer Mick Appleby, along with fellow trainer Richard Hughes. 

Appleby said: "I'm delighted it's moving to Newcastle. It's a Grade 1 track and it's the best all-weather track as far as I'm concerned."

Hughes added: "Logistically I don't think it will make any difference. If there is prize-money up for grabs we bring them to France quite often so I don't see that being a problem and you won't be beaten by the draw at Newcastle. I always think the best horse wins there."

While Lingfield loses one of its marquee fixtures, the inaugural All-Weather Vase meeting will have £395,000 in total prize-money, spread across three Class 4 and four Class 3 races.

Lingfield: has staged finls day since its inauguration in 2014

The course will also stage the inaugural Winter Million fixture from January 21 to 23 next year, with two days of jump racing sandwiching a Flat card.

A £125,000 handicap hurdle and handicap chase are set to be the features respectively on the Friday and Sunday, while a new £100,000 Coral Winter Oaks will headline the Saturday Flat card. In all the three days will offer a minimum of £1 million in prize-money.

Arc chief executive Martin Cruddace said: "The rationale for this is I think there is a genuine opportunity to provide high-class opportunities for genuine soft-ground horses. Lingfield will be an ideal location for it."

He added: "I don't want to make any rash promises but I'd be very surprised if the prize-money at Lingfield stayed stagnant. It is our intention to grow it. I believe it is something that could grow into something really quite special and I would of course love some Irish horses to come over."

The initiative was welcomed by trainer Nicky Henderson, who said: "We do need the opportunities to give these horses races at the right times and this timing's perfect. Any new initiative like this, and introduction of money such as this, has got to be applauded and welcomed."

In another all-weather development, Flat racing is set to return at Southwell on December 7 with its new Tapeta surface. Spincer said the shortage of lorry drivers had slowed down work at the track and scuppered hopes of its reopening sooner.

Arc also announced a new five-year partnership with Championship Horse Racing, the company behind the Racing League, to operate and deliver the controversial new competition from next year onwards.

Arc's director of partnerships David Leyden Dunbar said: "This partnership is going to see an additional £2.1 million of prize-money invested into the sport, with a further £200,000 invested by way of a bonus pot. That has only been made possible by Arc's willingness to embrace innovation.

"At Arc we are firm believers that we really need to seize every single opportunity we have to help engage this sport with an entirely new audience and the Racing League was exactly that type of opportunity."

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I'm delighted it's moving to Newcastle. It's a Grade 1 track and it's the best all-weather track as far as I'm concerned
E.W. Terms