Number of summer races to be reduced in 2023 to boost competitiveness

Around 170 races will be cut from the 2023 summer programme, with some redistributed through the autumn, as part of measures aimed at improving the competitiveness of races in Britain next year.

British racing's Industry Strategy Group met last month and agreed immediate changes were required to increase competition in 2023, with more strategic changes to the sport, including the fixture list, planned from 2024 onwards.

On the Flat, the maximum number of programmed races for meetings in July and August will be reduced from an average of 6.5 to six at all meetings at which total prize-money does not exceed £200,000 - removing approximately 120 races. National Hunt cards will be reduced from seven races to six in that period, with September cards cut to six from 6.5, resulting in the axing of 50 contests.

To mitigate the financial impact of this development, all-weather meetings will be permitted to programme eight races in October and November, with the option to divide to nine, while National Hunt cards will be extended to seven races in October and November, when field sizes are generally larger and races more competitive.

Race planning will also be tweaked with plans to better align the programme to the horse population, removing the worst performing conditions races from the schedule and reassessing the programme of nursery handicaps, as well as reducing the number of such races in July and August by 10-12 percent, subject to a review of juvenile numbers early in the new year.

Over jumps, the weight-for-age novice chase programme from May to August will be replaced with a programme of class three novice handicap chases, although these will also be reduced by 10-15 per cent. The programme of handicap chases will also be realigned to better fit the horse population, affecting approximately 10 per cent of class three and four handicap chases.

As well as the above, a small number of other tactical interventions have been agreed to help boost competitiveness.

Richard Wayman, chief operating officer of the British Horseracing Authority, said: "There was agreement across our industry that while a more strategic approach is required to secure a vibrant future for racing, action was needed more immediately to address issues around the competitiveness of the sport we are presenting to the public.

"It is pleasing that agreement has been reached quickly on this package of measures which will drive improvements in competitiveness next year. We can now focus slightly further ahead and seek to develop and introduce more fundamental changes to grow the appeal of racing to fans and customers in 2024 and beyond."

In another change, overseas-trained runners will be allowed to contest low-grade handicaps from the beginning of 2023, except during those times of the year where there are insufficient opportunities for British-trained runners, specifically on the Flat between September and December.

The BHA has also said it is working with the respective pattern committees to review the Pattern and Listed race programmes for both Flat and jumps racing, with a view "to strengthen, refine and consolidate the black-type programme".

Charlie Liverton, CEO of the Racehorse Owners Association, said: "British racing continues to recognise the challenges it faces. The package announced today is a short-term tactical plan which we hope will increase the competitiveness of British racing. Conversations continue on the longer-term strategy for the sport.

"Racing's participants have been voicing their frustration regarding the race programming and the side effects of the current structure for some time. I am pleased that this has been recognised and moreover, working with the BHA and racecourses, has helped shape a workable solution.

"This is an important marker that the industry is moving in the right-direction, and we can now turn our attention to long-term strategy planning."

David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Association, added: "Following on from the two-day strategy meeting in London, it is very encouraging to see the sport come together and make some meaningful changes for the 2023 calendar.

"Whilst the core of the strategy output will be delivered in 2024, the RCA and its Members are fully supportive of these short term interventions, which will definitely improve competitiveness in the short term."

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