The Racecourse Association declared itself pleased with the work of the Fixture Planning Group, which was one of the early innovations of British Horseracing Authority chief executive Paul Bittar. The news that the group had completed the bulk of its work and would publish the 2013 fixture list by the end of September represented “a considerable improvement on the last two years” according to the RA.
Nigel Roddis, from the Racing Enterprises strand of Racing For Change has chaired the group, with representation from the Levy Board and the Horsemen’s Group as well as the Racecourse Association. Their list is still subject to approval from the BHA board, but their meeting on 17 September should not throw up any objections.
There should be a similar level of meetings as this year, when 1,456 are scheduled, although of course the names of Folkestone and Hereford will both be missing. The team working on a rescue package for Hereford have only until the end of December to put in their application for 2014, with the same timescale applying to the consortium aiming to revitalise Great Leighs.
Bittar declared himself happy with the work of the group so far. He said, “The proof will be how it plays out over the next couple of months, but I think it is much better informed of the process and the issues on the way through. One of the key things is that we are keen to have a fixture list driven by consumer demand from bookmakers, racecourses and media groups. Our goal is to produce a fixture list that reflects the level of demand out there and I think how we meet that demand might require us to be a bit more innovative in terms of some of our racing and handicapping policies to encourage horses to run more often.”
The earlier publication of the fixture list will be a relief to many of the organisations such as the Injured Jockeys' Fund who include the information in their annual calendars and diaries. They won’t face the same pressure as last year, when it took until 15 November to settle the schedule, meaning some were forced into the extra costs of double print runs and distributions.