The new all-weather championships, which culminate in Lingfield’s £1 million prize day on Good Friday next year, gets under way at Wolverhampton on Saturday night. It isn’t sponsored by QIPCO, but in its structure does seem to have taken a leaf out of the Champions Day book.
The championship has races in six different categories: sprint, mile, middle distance, marathon, three year olds, and mares and fillies. With horses having to run in three qualifying races over the season to have a chance of taking part in the final, there should be plenty of action at Lingfield, Kempton, Southwell and Wolverhampton over the next four months. There’s another £1 million up for grabs in the qualifying races.
Tonight’s regular all weather fare at Kempton features two races offering £7,500 in prize money. On Saturday, Wolverhampton has two races worth £19,000 and one £14,000. That’s a significant boost to the level of prize money. They are the first of 52 new Class 2 and 3 races the BHA has approved. The course hopes for a bumper crowd, and to encourage racegoers is offering free admission to the grandstand if you book tickets in advance.
The new series has certainly caught the attention of many of racing’s well-known names, and the first card has entries from Godolphin, Richard Hannon, Sir Mark Prescott, Ed Dunlop Richard Fahey and Marco Botti. That augurs well for all weather racing throughout the winter. Certainly ARC were pleased with the response, with Kate Hills saying, “We’re really pleased with the entries. It’s good to see so many trainers showing how interested they are in the new programme.”
Small wonder then that Ladbrokes, Coral, 32Red and bookmakers.co.uk have signed up as sponsors for the various categories. They fully expect to get their money back from betting turnover on the series and the additional racing day on Good Friday. They and the BHA anticipate finals day at Lingfield will attract a sell out 10,000 crowd well in excess of its current highest gate for an all weather meeting of 7,611 achieved on Countryside Day in June.
A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said, “The ABB supports the introduction of Good Friday racing. We’ll have to wait and see how our customers react on the day….but we could expect a gross profit across the industry in excess of £1m for the day.”
Perhaps the championship is just what all weather racing needs to bring it in line with the turf in the minds of people who have so far dismissed it as makeweight racing.