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Newbury to switch to Sky Sports Racing

Newbury Racecourse has signed an initial five-year deal that will ensure all its fixtures will broadcast on Sky Sports Racing from 2024.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Berkshire circuit announced that its media rights will move to The Racing Partnership and Sky Sports Racing from April 1 2023, with broadcast coverage of the track’s meetings moving from Racing TV to Sky Sports the following January.

Newbury’s 29 annual race meetings include the Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials, the Group One Al Shaqab Lockinge card, the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival and the Grade One Challow Hurdle.

Julian Thick, Chief Executive of Newbury Racecourse, said: “We are delighted to announce this strategic partnership with TRP and Sky Sports Racing. We believe the new agreement secures a positive and exciting future for Newbury Racecourse and its shareholders and fits with our long-term values and aspirations for the business.

“Sky Sports Racing offers a very attractive platform for us with its extensive reach to 14 million homes, a particularly strong supporting digital footprint with both Attheraces.com and associated channels as well as the brand alignment and cross promotional opportunities that come with being part of the larger Sky family.

“We would like to thank our current rights holders, RMG, who have done and continue to do an excellent job for Newbury and have been a valued partner of ours since 2004.”

Sky Sports Racing’s global rights portfolio already includes Royal Ascot, Chester’s Boodles May Festival, the Cazoo St Leger Festival at Doncaster and Chepstow’s Coral Welsh Grand National – as well as the Breeders’ Cup, US Triple Crown, Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

Matthew Imi, Chief Executive, Sky Sports Racing, said: “Everyone at Sky Sports Racing is delighted at the prospect of a partnership with Newbury Racecourse.

“We regard it as a great privilege to be working with one of our sport’s most important and progressive participants and look forward to being able to attract significant audiences to their content through our domestic and international broadcast and digital platforms.

“Since the inception of Sky Sports Racing, we have added Ascot, Chester and Bangor-on-Dee to our portfolio of racecourse partners, and we very much look forward to Newbury joining in 2024.

“Working closely with our wagering partners and maximising the exposure Sky Sports can bring to Newbury’s fixtures, events and high-quality brand we believe this will translate into significant long-term opportunities for them on many different levels.”

From April 1 2023, all fixtures operated by Newbury Racecourse PLC will be distributed to the retail betting sector via The Racing Partnership.

The channel currently represents the retail betting rights for horseracing fixtures at all sixteen Arena Racing Company racecourses, as well as Fakenham, Hexham, Newton Abbot, Plumpton and Ripon. In addition, Newbury Racecourse PLC’s online media and data rights will be represented and distributed by TRP from January 1, 2024.

Martin Cruddace, Chief Executive of Arena Racing Company, said: “We are very pleased to confirm this partnership and welcome Newbury Racecourse on to TRP and Sky Sports Racing.

“Newbury is renowned for running some of the sport’s most important and popular fixtures across both the Flat and jumps calendars and will become a major element of broadcast packages for both TRP and Sky Sports Racing.

“As a sport, we must continue to work hard to engage with our customers, whether via direct to home television broadcast, online or via the retail betting sector. We very much look forward to working with Newbury to accomplish this.”

Cazoo backing for St Leger Festival

Cazoo has expanded its Classic portfolio by becoming the new sponsor of the St Leger.

The online car retailer has announced the partnership with Arena Racing Company, owners and operators of Doncaster – where the St Leger will be the highlight of this year’s four-day festival from September 8-11.

As well as naming rights for the St Leger Festival and its showpiece race, the deal also includes year-round prominent branding for Cazoo across all 16 ARC racecourses.

Cazoo is a significant sponsor in several major sports such as football, cricket, rugby league and snooker – as well as the Derby and Oaks at Epsom

Alex Chesterman, founder and CEO of Cazoo, said: “We are delighted to partner with ARC on the new Cazoo St Leger Festival, home to the world’s oldest Classic.”

ARC chief executive Martin Cruddace added: “We are delighted to welcome Cazoo as our new partner for the Cazoo St Leger Festival and, of course, the feature race itself.

“As an innovative and growing brand, they are a fantastic fit for what is an incredibly popular and important meeting in the race calendar.”

Southwell set for Tapeta switch

Arena Racing Company have submitted a planning application to replace the current Fibresand surface at Southwell with Tapeta.

Fibresand has been used at the Nottinghamshire venue since the inception of all-weather racing in 1989 yet despite several regeneration efforts, the time has now come for it to be replaced.

Tapeta, developed by Michael Dickinson and Joan Wakefield, has been in use at Wolverhampton and Newcastle – also owned by ARC – for a number of years and it is also in use around the world.

ARC chief executive, Martin Cruddace, said: “Racing at both Wolverhampton and Newcastle has benefitted hugely from the installation of Tapeta, as we have worked closely with Michael Dickinson, Joan Wakefield and their team on the maintenance and upkeep of both surfaces.

“Tapeta represents the next generation of artificial all-weather racing surface, in terms of its appeal to both trainers and jockeys, and it offers a number of benefits regarding its safety record, relative lack of kickback and fairness for horses.  In addition, it has the ability to handle very low temperatures and significant rainfall.

“The installation of Tapeta will give us an opportunity to look at the flat programme at Southwell and possibly introduce some Fast Track Qualifier races for the All-Weather Championships, for example.

“This work represents another significant step forward for racing at Southwell, which we intend to be one of the finest all-weather tracks in the world.”

It is expected work will start in the spring and be completed by summer 2021.

Champion trainer John Gosden backed the move and said: “I am delighted that ARC has chosen to make this investment in such difficult times. I have always thought that Newcastle is the best all-weather track in the UK because of its configuration and surface.

“The Tapeta surface is both safe and true and Southwell’s configuration is akin to many of the top racecourses in the USA. It will greatly benefit from the switch to Tapeta and I look forward to having many runners there.”

Mark Johnston was also in favour and said: “This is fantastic news. Southwell is faultless in terms of scale and layout and, with a Tapeta surface, it can be an all-weather racetrack of the highest international standard.”

Scott Dixon’s stables are very close to the track and he is excited at trying out the new surface.

“Obviously we train on track, so I look at it very positively because ultimately we’ll have a fantastic surface to train on every day,” he said.

“Fibresand has been very good to us over the years, we’ve had a lot of horses that have been Fibresand specific and course specialists. We’ve done well on it, but time moves on, things improve and Tapeta is regarded as one of the finest surfaces in the world.

“Southwell is a galloping track, very fair and is probably the best all-weather track in the country in terms of its layout so I think it is a very positive move for us. I look forward to it.”

However, not all trainers believe it is a good move.

Southwell regular Mick Appleby, who is based 43 miles away at Oakham, would prefer to see an American-style dirt surface there.

“I don’t think it’s the right decision. Yes, I agree Fibresand is now outdated and needs replacing,” he said.

“I don’t think Tapeta is the answer. For me, personally, I think they should change it to a dirt track.

“We’ve got no dirt tracks in the UK. We’ve got nothing anywhere near what they’ve got in America when Fibresand goes.

“You’d have thought it would have made more sense to put a dirt track down and get some better races on and get some Breeders’ Cup qualifiers and qualifiers for Dubai and things like that.

“What’s the point in having three Tapeta tracks?”