PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
SIR MICHAEL STOUTE, Luca Cumani and Roger Varian were among the leading members of their profession immediately to throw their weight behind Thursday’s launch of a National Trainers Federation petition calling on Arena Racing Group not to rip up Newcastle’s Flat turf track.
The Newmarket-based trio, among a number of trainers from headquarters who regularly send runners on the 480-mile round trip to Newcastle, were joined in voicing their opposition by dozens of colleagues. Multiple champion trainer Stoute said: “It’s a good turf course and we need to retain it.”
With the 2015 fixture list process temporarily on hold to allow for further discussions over the allocation of around 180 BHA-owned fixtures, industry opposition to the controversial plans to replace the highly regarded grass circuit with Tapeta has stepped up significantly this week.
The online petition follows hot on the heels of the news that the Horsemen’s Group is objecting to the prospect of the BHA granting Arc an exemption that would allow Newcastle to stage winter floodlit all-weather meetings in contravention of rules that demand Flat cards must include two races over a mile or further that aggregate more than two miles.
Newcastle plans to light up only a straight mile, so dispensation would need to be given for the track to be in the running to host twilight fixtures during the winter of 2015-16. That issue is among the reasons why the fixture list publication date has been put back to mid-October, from October 3, and the leasehold allocation process delayed.
A majority of trainers want an all-weather track in the north of England, but they would rather it were not introduced at the expense of what is considered one of the fairest galloping tracks in Britain. Catterick has all-weather aspirations, although they not as advanced as those for Newcastle.
Cumani wrote on the petition: “One of the best and fairest turf tracks in the UK. I have run many horses over the years, but will not if it becomes yet ANOTHER all-weather track,” while Varian wrote: “It will be a huge loss to lose a grass track of this quality.”
Read more in Friday’s Racing Post newspaper – or download the iPad edition
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