If you want to join the 63 club of people who have visited all the racecourses in Britain you need to get it on with it. That was the message from Paul Bittar, Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Authority at last week’s Leaders in Racing Conference at Chelsea Football Club.
Bittar had in mind reductions far beyond the closure of Hereford and Folkestone in December, predicting an industry that was leaner and fitter in every aspect. He anticipated that many small scale owners and trainers would close down their operations.
He said, “There will be certain racecourses where continuing to be in the business of racing is far outweighed by other opportunities. People who are genuine hobby breeders and trainers won’t be able to maintain the parcels of land and the investment in terms of money and time.”
Bittar suggested that racecourses most at risk were those on high value sites close to significant urban locations. He didn’t name any specific places, although applying his simple criteria could put places like Newcastle and Doncaster at risk.
One outcome of that would be a smaller fixture list, though Bittar felt that would not necessarily lead to a less profitable industry. He said, “A smaller fixture list doesn’t necessarily mean a less profitable fixture list. Managing that consolidation of the industry doesn’t necessarily mean that a huge amount of the income that is generated within the sport will have to disappear. If you have a genuinely customer-centric fixture list, it can be smaller but still be as profitable as a bigger one.”
Anyone crystal ball gazing more than a year ahead can easily become a hostage to fortune, and it’s far from certain that Bittar’s view of the future will come to fruition. However, there’s plenty of food for thought there.