A-W Championships 2014: Has the plan worked?

Jim Allen, ARC’s Racing Director, said: “I would like to thank all our of sponsors and the horsemen, who have supported the All-Weather Championships and in particular the better class of races.

“The objectives of the All-Weather Championships were to begin to rebrand the position of All-Weather racing in Britain. We wanted to improve the profile, prestige and reputation of the sport and to improve the race programme where we could. We also wanted to improve field sizes and as a result hoped that betting turnover and Levy yield would increase. We hoped that everything would have a knock-on effect on integrity, that we would create international interest in the sport and that ultimately for the consumer create an easy-to-follow, exciting and joined-up championships for fans to follow throughout the winter.

“There was a lot of debate about whether or not the 59 updated Class 2 and 3 races would fill and I am delighted to say they have. We are quite pleased with how that has gone, but accept that we still have a long way to go.

“We have had interest from overseas in terms of entries and runners, and certainly the BHA are pleased with the way the better races have filled this year. I was concerned at the start that we might have been a bit ambitious with those, but I think we got it spot on.

“The quality of horse we have had has been fantastic. Four track records have been broken and hopefully we will see a few more of them broken on Good Friday.

“From January through to March we have also tried to support the lower grade of races, not only with the sprint series, but most of lower grade races were above minimum value through this period. It is normally a quiet time of year for field sizes and we hoped that this would help.

“The All-Weather Championships this year have obviously seen an injection of £2 million, which will have gone, most certainly after next Friday, into the pockets of the horsemen in what traditionally is quiet time of year for them.

“It has obviously helped that ARC and the Horsemen Group have signed the prize money agreement, which is great news and makes my job easier going forward.

“The main story was trying to improve quality in our first year and in terms of individual runners in our first season compared to last season the number is slightly up, as of a couple of days ago, with 4,083 runners compared to 4,045.

“In terms of the 100+ rated horses, 78 of them have run this year compared to 57 (36 per cent increase) last year, while those 100+ rated horses have turned out 129 times between them, which compares to 80 times (61 per cent increase) last year. We are pleased with that and it has certainly improved interest in the sport.

“At certain All-Weather tracks (Lingfield and Southwell) we have seen field size increases in lower class races, but obviously it has been well documented about Wolverhampton and we are doing something about that for next season.

“The introduction of sectional timing, which we have been trialing over the last couple of weeks here at Lingfield, will prove to be quite a big piece of next Friday with all these good horses running. The sectional timing of every race is posted online and that’s available to everyone whether it be fans, press or horsemen.

“There is also the All-Weather Championships website, which has been constantly updated with leaderboards throughout the Championships.”

“Good Friday will kick off the with the £50,000 coral.co.uk All-Weather Championships Apprentice Handicap, which will be the first race to take place on a British racecourse on Good Friday, and then we will have the six championship races.

“We have had 123 entries across the six races and I am delighted to say that 14 of the 16 Fast-Track Qualifier winners are entered and hopefully intend to run. 30 per cent of the entries are rated over a 100 and the highest rated horse is Grandeur on 115.

“In terms of taking the championships forward, ARC, the Jockey Club and our sponsors will have a big debrief at the end of this year’s championships looking ahead to next year – I am sure there will be some changes. We will also be having discussions with Meydan, the Breeders’ Cup and the Irish and French racing authorities to see how we can tie and develop the All-Weather Championships going forward.

“We will see if overseas horses can qualify. We have had overseas interest this year – we have had several runners from abroad but I don’t think any will be running on Finals Day as they haven’t quite been good enough to make the field, which is a good thing in a way. The All-Weather Championships is certainly something that we want to see develop into a big European, internationally-interested event.

“We will also sit down with the BHA and look at how we can improve the race programme. We also be hoping to develop sectional timing in some way, which could be a roll out across all our All-Weather tracks, but I certainly hope it plays a bigger part in next year’s championships now we have the technology working properly.

“In summary, it has been a good first year one and, although we have a long way to go, it’s a good start. All-Weather Racing has obviously had a chequered history and we realised that we needed to do something about it. With what we have achieved so far, we have made a good start and we will look to develop it going forwards.”


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