Further Flat meetings in the pipeline for Wetherby Racecourse

FLAT OUT: Wetherby racecourse Chief executive Jonjo Sanderson. Picture: Tony Johnson
FLAT OUT: Wetherby racecourse Chief executive Jonjo Sanderson. Picture: Tony Johnson

Bosses at Wetherby Racecourse have applied for permission to host a second tranche of Flat meetings next year following the culmination of successful trials.

Even though National Hunt racing will continue to be pre-eminent at the West Yorkshire track, the success of four Flat-only racedays – the last of which took place on Tuesday night – has persuaded officials to remain a dual-purpose venue.

They hope the British Horseracing Authority will approve their request for Flat meetings, and additional jumps fixtures, as part of complex discussions currently underway to determine horse racing’s calendar for 2016.

“They have gone very well,” chief executive Jonjo Sanderson.

“From a statistical point of view, we have averaged 200 entries per meeting and 83 runners per meeting.

“That, in itself, is very pleasing and very positive. Clearly the track is attractive to the horsemen.”

He cited the fact that Newmarket-based William Haggas and John Gosden both had winners at Tuesday’s meeting as evidence that trainers like Wetherby’ wide open expanse – and how entries next season could be further boosted by Newcastle’s controversial decision to install an all-weather track. He says the need for a galloping Flat track in the North will be even stronger.

Though crowd numbers have not matched the average attendance of 3,800 racegoers at National Hunt meetings, Sanderson says the public’s reaction has been positive and he hopes that the BHA will consider Wetherby’s request favourably. “It would be nice, at some point down the line, to see what Wetherby could do on a Saturday in the summer,” he added.

“Though we will always be a predominantly jumps track, and are seeking extra National Hunt fixtures, Flat racing has a place at Wetherby. Paul Hanagan, the former champion jockey, said the ground was absolutely beautiful on Tuesday. We have a great track and want to make the most use of it.”

Aidan O’Brien is responsible for 16 of the initial 29 entries for the Ladbrokes St Leger, the world’s oldest Classic, at Doncaster on September 12.

Though the field is devoid of Yorkshire-trained horses, Epsom Derby third Storms The Stars from the yard of Skipton-born William Haggas remains ante-post favourite.