Racing: Newmarket shelve all-weather plan after row over fixtures

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The Independent Online

Plans to build an all-weather track alongside the Rowley Mile at Newmarket have been put on hold after the course was offered only a limited number of fixtures. The British Horseracing Board's Fixture Allocation Group gave the executive three meetings for the whole of 2005, wrecking the venture.

Plans to build an all-weather track alongside the Rowley Mile at Newmarket have been put on hold after the course was offered only a limited number of fixtures. The British Horseracing Board's Fixture Allocation Group gave the executive three meetings for the whole of 2005, wrecking the venture.

Explaining the number of fixtures allocated, the BHB communications manager, Alan Delmonte, said: "No racecourse could have been in the slightest doubt about the position for 2005. Every racecourse - new and existing - has known for months that the Levy Board was not funding any more fixtures in 2005 and that this meant that the only additional fixtures were going to be Regional fixtures, which Newmarket have decided not to apply for.

"It has been clear from the outset of the new-racecourse process that being given the go-ahead to participate in fixture allocation for 2005 was the first step and that getting fixtures was the second step, and that there could be no guarantees."

Lisa Hancock, the Newmarket managing director, said: "The Newmarket executive is exceptionally disappointed by BHB's decision on our application for all-weather fixtures in 2005. Clearly the BHB do not want racing on an artificial surface at Newmarket in 2005.

"We received the go-ahead for our application to build a new course from the BHB, via its New Racecourse Committee, in the spring following the granting of planning permission in February. Now, after a great deal of time and £300,000 in expenditure, the same organisation is failing to back us. It would have saved us a huge amount of effort and cost if we had been told at the outset by the BHB not to apply."

Peter Player, chairman of Newmarket, said: "It beggars belief. The BHB gave the green light by approving a new track, yet has allocated only three fixtures. How can anyone expect us to invest £6m on that basis?"

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