Britain’s newest racecourse Ffos Las, which opened just over two years ago, has said it is “very concerned” over the central horse racing authority’s plans for fixtures in 2012.
If the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) proposal is implemented – reducing fixtures to a maximum of 1,400 across the country – the west Wales racecourse faces a potential drop from 29 to 16 or 17 race meetings next year.
The BHA has said the number of race meets across the UK for 2012 will be capped as a response to falling numbers of horses entering some races.
A spokesperson for the racing authority said: “The decision by the BHA to remove at least 80 fixtures is due to concerns regarding the ability of the declining horse population to continue to service the existing fixture list.
“Recent analytical research undertaken by Weatherbys into the likely impact of sharply falling foal crops strongly suggests an increased rate of decline in horse numbers in 2012 and, with nearly 40% of races currently attracting seven or fewer runners, the fixture reduction has been approved with a view to protecting the competitiveness of British Racing.”
The BHA has released the below figures for the number of horses being trained and taking part in races in England and Wales:
Ruth Quinn, Director of Racing for the British Horseracing Authority, said:
“Although the size and shape of the fixture list cannot be finalised until the impact of the significantly reduced levy has been confirmed, we have taken this action to try to ensure that falling horse numbers will not erode the attractiveness of British Racing, both as a sporting spectacle and as a betting medium.
“The process will involve removing a majority of the leasehold fixtures that had been agreed on a one-year only basis for 2011 between racecourses and horsemen, and we will continue to consult with stakeholders to ensure that the fixture slots that are removed will be those that are of the least value to Racing.
“Horse numbers have been in steady decline since peaking in 2008 and, with the significantly reduced foal crops due to reach racing age, the sport cannot continue at its previous capacity. Although we are in the middle of a remarkable Flat season, the Board felt compelled to take this decision to protect the long term health of the sport.”
But Wales’ newest course has said that it would not be economically viable to operate on such a restricted number of fixtures.
Tim Long, General Manager and Clerk of the Course, said:
“Ffos Las – from a standing start as a racecourse business two years ago – has been a success for the sport of horse racing.
“The racecourse has brought horse racing to an area of Britain where there had been none previously. It has significantly boosted local businesses, increased employment directly and indirectly, and helped tourism.
“The racecourse is meeting a need for racing in south and west Wales that has strengthened the businesses of local trainers. It has helped to develop further south Wales as a burgeoning centre for racehorse training, with all the economic benefits that brings.
“The racecourse has delivered on all its promises to the British racing industry, becoming the first new turf track for the sport since before the Second World War; it is investing considerable sums to meet the prize-money requirements of the Horsemen’s Group of racehorse owners, trainers and jockeys; and it is further developing horse racing in one of the remoter parts of the country.”
All 60 British racecourses have been made aware of the changes, and the process of consultation regarding the removal of fixture slots is ongoing.