Thursday 31 July 2014

Warwick Racecourse aims to become leading small Jumps course with all-Jumps programme from 2015

Wednesday 30th July 2014 – Jockey Club Racecourses today announced plans for a 17-fixture all-Jumps race programme at Warwick Racecourse from 2015 and a vision for the Midlands track to become regarded as one of the UK's leading small Jumps courses within the next five years.

With an all-Jumps focus, clear identity and a boosted race programme, the move is designed to help the course to thrive over the long-term, rather than continue to struggle to remain viable in its current dual-code capacity. The plan – developed by the local course management and racecourse committee with the help and full support of the wider Jockey Club Racecourses team – will see several million pounds invested in Warwick in the coming years, including through reservoir expansion, enhanced irrigation systems and prize money contributions.

The current Flat course will be utilised to provide a spring or autumn course, in addition to the existing winter course. The move follows a programme of consultation about the best future for the racecourse, which was the first to stage Jumps racing in Great Britain in 1831, effectively introducing the code to these shores. 

The consultation, which gathered the views of trainers, jockeys and owners, as well as Warwick Annual Members and racegoers, highlighted the significant differences in perception between the quality and purpose of Flat racing at Warwick in comparison to its more highly regarded Jumps programme. Warwick currently stages 11 Jumps fixtures and 10 Flat fixtures. Jockey Club Racecourses has worked collaboratively with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to develop Warwick’s new all Jumps programme, particularly in the conversion and transfer of fixtures. Having consulted with The Horsemen’s Group and Racecourse Association, the BHA has approved the conversion of six Flat fixtures to Jumps at Warwick and four Flat fixtures transferring to Nottingham (x2), Carlisle and Epsom Downs, within the provisional 2015 Fixture List. The management at Warwick will work in consultation with BHA Course Inspectors on implementing the necessary changes to the track in order to accommodate the additional Jump fixtures. 

The specific details will be confirmed as part of the publication of the 2015 Fixture List by BHA. With a total of 17 Jumps fixtures slated from 2015 – running August to May – Jockey Club Racecourses has pledged to increase its average prize money contribution across Warwick’s Jump fixture programme for 2015. 

Recent highlights over Jumps at Warwick include the Betfred Classic Chase, contended by the likes of Auroras Encore and West End Rocker; the Kingmaker Novices' Chase, won by Long Run and Finian's Rainbow; and the Leamington Novices' Hurdle (Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle), won by The New One and Carruthers. Three of the last five winners of the Crabbie's Grand National – Auroras Encore, Ballabriggs and Don't Push It – raced at Warwick in the build up to their Aintree triumphs. In addition, it has been announced recently that a Novice Chase in January, the Hampton Novices’ Chase, has been upgraded to Listed status by BHA. Many industry commentators have expressed the desire for British racing to strengthen the quality of the Jumps programme throughout the year and en route to the major festivals. Jockey Club Racecourses intends for this move to help towards achieving this. 

The UK's leading racecourse group is governed by The Jockey Club's Royal Charter commitment to act solely for the long-term good of British racing. 

Ian Renton, the Jockey Club Racecourses Regional Director responsible for Warwick Racecourse, said: "Warwick can now benefit from a clear identity and, in the coming years, significant investment as a top quality small Jumps course. I have every confidence it will succeed because we are building on Warwick's existing strengths, which has been underlined by the industry’s support for Jumps racing through the consultation we have carried out over the last few months. We want people talking about fantastic racing at Warwick and boosting the important role it plays in the British Jumps racing programme. "We could invest further in the Flat track at Warwick, such as increasing the camber, but that work would just return the Flat course to a position where the course has been struggling. It's not a decision we’ve taken lightly but I feel we have left no stone unturned to ensure this is the right move for British racing in the long-term. It's time for Warwick not just to survive, but thrive."

Nicky Henderson, leading Jumps trainer, added: “I very much welcome the news and see it as a huge benefit to Jumps racing. “Warwick is a very fair course that has good, competitive Jumps racing, especially in the novice chase and novice hurdle departments. The fences are nicely sighted, they can be a little challenging down the back, but they are of a good size. We run plenty of horses there and with good, competitive novice hurdles and novice chases the field sizes are always good. “It is very positive that the current Flat course is being transferred as additional space to run the Jumps races, and to have the flexibility of that extra ground. The ground can get testing in the winter making the spring ground less desirable but it’s a bonus that this issue will be resolved to allow for the space to run the extra fixtures that have been introduced during the spring and the autumn. “Geographically it is very well situated for us in Lambourn and it is an inviting course for all sorts of horses. The prize money at Warwick has always been good and they run some good races there.”