The Bloody Hopeless Amateurs (BHA) have at long last announced the fixture list for 2012. In the end, the total of 1456 meetings is just 24 fewer than this year, and substantially higher than the BHA's proposed number of 1400. There will be 876 Flat meetings and 580 Jump cards.
The flat season will start at Doncaster on Saturday 31 March, and unlike the bizarre beginning to this season, which saw meetings at Catterick and Leicester before the season officially kicked off, there will be no flat race meetings before then.
A number of one off significant changes take account of bank holidays and the Olympics. The postponement of the Spring Bank Holiday so that it forms part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in the first week of June means that the Epsom Derby meeting will take place over the bank holiday weekend (Friday 1 and Saturday 2 June).
In addition, there will be a four-week gap between the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National meeting, so that the latter does not take place over the Easter weekend.
Ascot and Newbury racecourses have swapped around a number of their dates so that the Ascot meeting which includes the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes will take place a week earlier than normal. This is so that it does not clash with the Olympics and therefore the BBC will continue to cover the meeting.
This year there was a nonsensical ten-day break during mid-September in the summer jumps season. That will be repeated next year (13 to 22 September) and a second ten-day break will take place between 6 and 15 August. This has required Newton Abbott and Worcester to move their early August meetings. Now answer me this: if the plan was to have a break in early August why were any fixtures ever programmed for that period? And how can it help trainers in any way to have 10 days off, race foe a month and then have another 10-day break?
Around a quarter of the meetings, 358 in total, will take place at the 14 tracks run by Jockey Club Racecourses: Aintree, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Epsom, Exeter, Haydock, Huntingdon, Kempton Park, Market Rasen, Newmarket, Nottingham, Sandown, Warwick and Wincanton.
Paul Fisher, Group Managing Director of Jockey Club Racecourses said, "We're very pleased to have secured a competitive set of fixtures for next year. Overall, we see the 2012 fixture list as a balanced package, mindful of the needs of all the sportâ€™s constituents including Horsemen, racecourses and the betting industry. In 2011, weâ€™re scheduled to make a record Â£15.7 million contribution into prize-money. We need to work through this year's performance before announcing specifics for 2012, but rest assured, The Jockey Club will continue to lead from the front in terms of investing in prize-money, which we regard as a vital investment in the health of our sport and its people."
In a rare moment of contrition for the length of time it has taken to settle the program, Ruth Quinn, Director of Racing for the BHA said, "Whilst the BHA remains concerned about the declining horse population, a rise in the number of races with small fields and recent downgrades to the race programme, the 2012 fixture list is a pragmatic outcome to a long and difficult process during which the views of the sportâ€™s stakeholders have been taken into account.
We will continue to work closely together to address the challenges facing British racing, with the immediate priority being to produce a race programme that is better matched to the demands of the horse population. The delay in producing the fixture list will undoubtedly have inconvenienced many of the sports loyal followers and all parties involved in producing the fixture list are committed to doing everything they can to ensure that it is not repeated in the future."
They had better start planning for 2013 now.