Flat breaks and earlier finishes feature in record fixture list for 2019
New breaks for the Flat and earlier finishes for floodlit meetings will form part of next year's fixture list which was published on Thursday and contains a record 1,511 meetings, three more than scheduled for this year.
Jockeys representatives welcomed the initiatives, which are designed to lessen the pressure on the sport's participants and staff, although they said there was more that could be done.
Measures have also been agreed to schedule floodlit cards in an attempt to provide more continuous and consistent racing for betting operators, along with a trial of 15 additional floodlit fixtures in the autumn to test the popularity of staging two such meetings on the same evening with the betting public.
BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: "Producing a fixture list that strikes the right balance between sufficient support for all those who work so hard in racing, opportunities and rewards for owners and a compelling betting product to grow vital revenues for the sport has been a cross-industry effort.
"We hope the 2019 Fixture List gives racing’s participants and customer groups confidence that the sport is working together in their best interests, and its early publication will allow the industry, racecourses and bookmakers adequate time to plan for next year."
|PROGRAMMED FIXTURES 2010-2018|
Professional Jockeys Association executive director Dale Gibson welcomed next year's schedule and said racing stakeholders had worked together constructively on the fixture list.
"We obviously had a significant input into the two jockey breaks and the extended seven-month period of twilight and evening all-weather fixtures which finish between 8 and 8.30pm," he added.
"That was proposed by us and then pushed by the BHA with the support of the racecourses and bookmakers. That was our main push on the 2019 fixtures.
"However, moving forward for participants, there could potentially be more to be done on Sundays for example. In an ideal world we do think in the future there is potential for further Flat-free Sundays, bearing in mind we have a fixture list of 1,511."
The 2019 schedule was also welcomed by bookmakers William Hill, who are taking over betting shops on 34 courses bringing their on-track estate to 41.
The firm's divisional director Steven White said: "Racing is absolutely key to William Hill and as the leading on-course betting shop operator we hope these changes are successful in appealing to customers across all channels as well as supporting growth in attendances at the course."
Arena Racing Company spokesman Sam Cone said: "Work has commenced on the installation of the floodlights at Southwell and remains on schedule for the first fixture under lights in January."
The Jockey Club will stage one fewer fixture than this year with 347 meetings. Among them are the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National meeting at Aintree which will have a three-week gap between them in 2019.
Jockey Club Racecourses chief executive Paul Fisher said: "Our racing department has worked hard to secure a fixture list for 2019 which showcases our commitment to all levels of British racing, from grassroots to the very pinnacle of our sport.
"It is fantastic to see that our investments in prize-money and facilities, the experience we offer to all connections and our efforts to increase field sizes have been recognised again in the fixture process."
The BHA board has previously approved Chelmsford City’s application to install a turf course but no turf fixtures or races have been approved at the track next year.
However, the BHA said that would be revisited once further progress has been made on the construction of the turf track.
The fixture list also does not contain any provision for the Championship Horse Racing concept being developed by former Swindon Town chairman Jeremy Wray, who hoped to launch it next year, although the BHA did not rule out its addition to the schedule should it get to that stage.
Racecourse Association racing director Andy Clifton said the production of the fixture list had been a great example of the tripartite structure of British racing.
He went on: "The end result is a fixture list that balances the very different requirements of sections of the racing and betting industries as well as it can, and we look forward to continuing that process in the years to come, to the benefit of the sport as a whole."
Racehorse Owners Association chief executive Charlie Liverton said: "The culmination of the 2019 fixture list process produced a balanced fixture list with due rewards and opportunities for all those who invest in British racing. The tripartite structure was seen at its best, delivering a fixture list with the interest of the whole industry at its core.
"Balancing the interests of all of racing's stakeholders through the process is not always straightforward and so it is with great confidence that we look forward to 2019 and continuing to work together for the benefit of the whole sport."
MAIN CHANGES IN 2019 FIXTURE LIST
• Total number up by three, from previous record of 1,508 to 1,511. Ten extra Flat all-weather; five fewer Flat turf; two fewer jumps.
• 915 Flat fixtures, including 351 all-weather (from 910, including 341 all-weather in 2018); 596 jumps (from 598). Flat turf (564) account for 37.3% of total (from 37.7%); all-weather 23.2% (22.6%); jumps 39.4% (39.7%).
• Increase of ten all-weather fixtures; proportion of Flat programme 38.4% (from 37.5% in 2018, 36.2% in 2017, 35.5% in 2016, 34.8% in 2015, 33.6% in 2014, 34.5% in 2013).
• For third full year, six courses stage all-weather fixtures – Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield, Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton. Southwell floodlit for first time; opening meeting under floodlights scheduled for January 29, 2019, with total of 16 scheduled.
• Evening meetings (including former twilights) up by 18 to 430 (up by 30 to 412 in 2018).
• Floodlit fixtures between January and mid-April to start at 4pm, September to December at 6pm, to provide continuous racing through day; addition of 15 floodlit fixtures in September and October as one-year trial, to run alongside existing floodlit meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.
• First Flat racing break of six days, at end of turf season on November 9; also five-day break scheduled March 17-21 but could be filled in exceptional circumstances if jump racing likely to be abandoned.
• Three weeks between Cheltenham Festival (March 12-15) and Aintree (April 4-6), after one year of four weeks and two years of three weeks.
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