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More turf races needed

Donny ScenicThe opening weeks of the Flat turf season are in urgent need of attention because there are so few turf meetings programmed between the Lincoln and Craven meetings, says the ROA.

Although the Lincoln fixture is the traditional curtain-raiser to the Flat turf season, only ten meetings on grass are scheduled between Doncaster (pictured) and the first day of Newmarket's Craven meeting.

The imbalance will be exacerbated in 2018 when there is a 22-day gap between the two meetings, compared to 15 this year, during a schedule when 12 of the 16 Flat fixtures in the first week of April are on the all-weather.

"The turf racing in April needs re-evaluating between the Doncaster meeting and the end of the month," said ROA Chief Executive Charlie Liverton. "There is far too little turf racing.

"Horsemen are being asked to get their horses ready and effectively a lot of them will be having to put the handbrakes on because there is no turf racing."

National Trainers Federation chief executive Rupert Arnold said the schedule worked for neither trainers nor owners.

"It has this blurring effect to the start of the Flat turf," he said. "It means the sense of occasion of the start of the Flat turf season is very much diminished because you have this hiatus.

"So in terms of the overall marketability for the sport at an important juncture of the season it diminishes our ability to create a positive impact at a particular point of the year.

"It'san unattractive situation for owners and trainers who have been building up their horses to run on turf and then it's start-stop. That is something that doesn't work well for owners and trainers at the moment."

Arnold said there was a similar issue at the end of the turf season when opportunities tended to dry up.

"The jumps season has the Open meeting at Cheltenham providing a positive to start to the core season and there is a positive end at Sandown.

"On Flat turf there isn't really a season any more. I know there is the championship season but when it comes to the actual sporting season there isn't a really clear definition at either end.

"There is a proper break after Sandown for jumping so we acknowledge that's a positive thing for jumping and yet we do nothing of a similar nature for the Flat."

The BHA said it was aware of the issue. Chief operating officer Richard Wayman said: "We understand the concerns raised by horsemen regarding a lack of turf fixtures in the early part of the Flat season and we are committed to working with the Racecourse Association and its members to try and make progress in this area for 2019 and beyond.”

The 2018 fixture list contained 1,508 meetings, an increase of 11 on the original 2017 list.

Arnold said:"I thought [National Association of Stable Staff chief executive] George McGrath put it very well. I think it was something we have reluctantly had to accept.

"It's not something trainers like because it does cause a lot of logistical problems, particularly at the end of the week.

"Saturdays are extremely busy not just on the racecourse but in trainers' yards as well because a lot of owners like to come and see their horses and Saturday is still an important work day.

"So if you have Friday evening racing and Saturday evening racing it makes the management of your staff and horses really difficult.

"So it's not something we want but as an industry we are trying to grow the industry's revenue overall so it's something we have to reluctantly accept."

27 July 2017

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