In a bid to provide greater protection for their important National Hunt fixtures, Racecourse Holdings Trust (RHT) has secured the use of 45 acres of frost covers for the coming winter months.
RHT, whose 10 jump tracks are responsible for 80% of Grade 1 races, has entered into agreements for the 2006-7 season with two suppliers who both provide frost covers designed specifically for use in sport. As a result, up to two RHT courses will now have the ability to cover their entire racing surface with proven materials.
Simon Claisse, Director of Racing at Cheltenham, said: "Our primary objective is to protect the high profile televised weekend fixtures from November to March. We have the use of a sufficient amount of material to cover one large course and one smaller course, unless a Cheltenham fixture is under threat, when there would not be enough to spare for a second track.
"We believe the use of these covers will significantly enhance the chances of a meeting surviving in the event of freezing conditions overnight. However, the frost covers will not guarantee that a meeting goes ahead. We are still at an experimental stage when it comes to assessing how effective and practical the covers will be when deployed in full on a racecourse. One of the benefits of going to two suppliers will be to see how both companies operate in the field with two different systems."
RHT has put together a list prioritising its fixtures for November and December to assist Clerks of the Course and racecourses with regard to which courses should have the use of the frost covers in the event of cold weather being forecast
Andrew Coppel, Chief Executive of RHT, said: "Our team of Clerks has worked hard since last winter assessing the art of the possible. In approving the funding, the Board of RHT confirmed its support for the initiative. The objective is to minimise the risk of losing the key National Hunt fixtures which provide the sport with a shop window at weekends, a narrative for the season and make an important contribution to the sport’s income through the Levy they generate. While we are keen to protect as many meetings as possible, the costs for the deployment of the covers will have to be factored in when considering the case for fixtures outside of the main events."
RHT is in discussions with other courses as to whether they would want to have access to the frost covers on the occasions when they are not needed by a RHT track.
Notes for Editors:
1. RHT own 13 tracks, of which 10 stage jump racing: Aintree, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Haydock Park, Huntingdon, Kempton Park, Market Rasen, Sandown Park, Warwick and Wincanton.
2. The frost cover materials secured for use by RHT differ from that used at Newbury last year, which are primarily designed for agricultural use. The two suppliers are: A) Sports and Stadia Services Ltd, who also supply the covers in use at Twickenham, as well as at the San Siro stadium in Milan and football grounds in Moscow; B) Stuart Canvas Products, who have been making covers for sports grounds of all sizes and locations for more than 20 years, working with many of the top rugby and football venues over the last two decades.
3. RHT is owned by the Jockey Club and from January 2007 the group will operate under the title Jockey Club Racecourses.
4. RHT aims to enhance British racing through the consistent delivery of excellent racing programmes, the provision of superior facilities for racegoers and racing professionals, and a commitment to the highest standards of turf husbandry, safety and welfare. As a subsidiary of The Jockey Club, the group will continue to invest in racing the profits resulting from its businesses and remains dedicated to improving the sport.