Political heavyweight in the saddle to lead racing

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Lord Wakeham, the former leader of the Conservatives in both Houses of Parliament, is to become the new Chairman of the British Horseracing Board. After less than a year as a director of racing's governing body, he has been appointed to succeed Lord Hartington, who has steered the BHB through its opening two and a half years and whose term of office ends in June next year.

Lord Wakeham, 63, joined the Board in June as a nominee of the Industry Committee and was the only nominee for racing's top post which he will hold for four years from 7 June.

He said yesterday: "I am delighted and very flattered to be appointed as chairman of the governing authority for British racing."

Lord Wakeham's experience in business and politics - he was also a racehorse owner with Stan Mellor in the 1970s - marked him out as a potential chairman once he had won his seat on the main board.

However, he hopes his successor can emerge from within the ranks of the racing industry during his term in charge.

"I think this is an important position partly because Stoker Hartington has been such a success in driving the whole thing forward. It is important that the BHB now comes to maturity.

"At the end of the day I would like to see the next chairman come from any section of the industry and hope we can produce a man or woman who can do the job. Secondly, the finances of the sport are still pretty dodgy in spite of the welcome reduction in betting duty. A lot of things can be done to improve things on a financial basis and not just by looking to the government."