Horsemen’s Group say more competition will benefit the all-weather as Chelmsford sign up

Pic: Courtesy Arena Racing Company

Chelmsford City next season will join Lingfield (pictured) and Kempton by hosting all-weather racing in the south east. Pic: Courtesy Arena Racing Company.

By Simon Jackson.

The Horsemen’s Group chairman Philip Freedman has said that greater competition will benefit all-weather racing after the announcement that Chelmsford City Racecourse has signed-up to the Prize Money Agreement until the end of 2016.

The news that Chelmsford City Racecourse, formerly Great Leighs, has signed-up to the Premier Tier Agreement means that the Essex racecourse is now eligible to apply for BHA fixtures in addition to the 12 ‘start-up’ dates already granted for next season.

Chelmsford City, owned by a consortium headed by Betfred boss Fred Done, will contribute at least 40 per cent of their total media rights income to prize money. They are one of 54 racecourses to have now signed Prize Money Agreements – a commercial partnership between horsemen and racecourses.

“We welcome the re-opening of Chelmsford City and look forward to its staging fixtures from the beginning of next year,” Freedman said. “Its popularity with horsemen reflects not only its proximity to Newmarket but also its design, layout and surface.”

“Greater competition for all-weather fixtures can only have a positive impact on the quality of racing and the financial returns to horsemen, and the fact that Chelmsford City has signed a Premier Tier agreement indicates their commitment to significantly improving all-weather racing.”

Phil Siers, managing director of Chelmsford City Racecourse, said: “With the significant investment we are making at Chelmsford City Racecourse, it is intended that we provide the best facilities we can.

“Whilst a large part of this will be focused on providing a new grandstand and infrastructure, we are not neglecting our horsemen. Horses are the lifeblood of any track, and we intend to offer leading prize money levels.

“We understand the vital importance of working in partnership with horsemen and creating an attractive programme of racing, which coupled with high prize money levels, will encourage owners and trainers to run their horses here. This is at the heart of our vision for the racecourse.

“Additionally, we plan to ensure that the raceday experience for connections with runners will surpass the offerings at other racecourses, and we are confident that Chelmsford City Racecourse will quickly become the all-weather destination of choice, where horsemen most want to run their horses.”

The British Horseracing Authority has confirmed that Chelmsford City will be included in the allocation process for extra dates.

“BHA welcomes Chelmsford City signing a Prize Money Agreement, which paves the way for the new racecourse to enter into the allocation process for BHA Fixtures,” the BHA’s director of racing, Ruth Quinn, said.

“This process is set to commence on Monday, with a racecourse’s eligibility for fixtures being driven by a number of sporting and financial criteria, designed to benefit the sport as a whole and drive the right behaviour amongst racecourses.”

The news is a further boost to racing fans in Essex following the closure of Great Leighs which – under different ownership to Chelmsford City Racecourse – was the first new racetrack in the UK for over 80 years when it opened in 2008, but went into administration the next year after just 44 meetings.

Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.