THE New Year’s Eve fixture at Warwick Racecourse will go ahead as scheduled, writes David Hucker.
Officials at the track had intended to hold an inspect at midday on Saturday as there were areas of standing water on the course.
But there was not as much overnight rainfall as had been forecast, so clerk of the course Jane Hedley was able to give the meeting an earlier-than-anticipated thumbs-up.
Conditions are likely to be testing, though, with the going heavy and patchy showers forecast.
Last year’s meeting attracted a record crowd of some 6,500 and another sell-out is expected when the seven-race card gets underway at 12.30am with the British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, which has attracted 27 entries.
Highlight of the afternoon is the £10,000 Local Parking Security Handicap Chase over three miles in which course and distance winners Bronco Billy and Paddy The Oscar feature amongst the 24 entries.
Although just a day off his 15th birthday, Paddy The Oscar holds his form well and runs from a 3lb lower handicap mark than when runner-up in the race 12 months ago.
Course ambassador Dan Skelton passed £1m in prize money for the season when Get On The Yager who provided brother Harry with his 100th winning ride of the campaign when scoring at Fontwell Park earlier in the month, doubled up in Wetherby’s Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day.
He has entered Captain Simon in the Local Parking Security Novices’ Handicap Hurdle and he should step up on his last run over this longer trip, although he does hold an entry at Taunton on Saturday.
As well as the racing, entertainment will include a magician, stilt walkers, music from DJ Les Bucks and an hour long performance from a Tina Turner tribute act following the final race which goes off at 3.40pm.
General manager Andre Klein is looking forward to celebrating a good year for the course, saying: “It has been another hugely successful year for everyone here at Warwick Racecourse, our hospitality guest numbers have grown 15 per cent to 7,000 this year and, away from the racedays, we have seen 40,000 people attend other conferences and events.”
“The New Year’s Eve crowd is expected to push 2017 visitor numbers to more than 40,000, the highest number of racegoers since 2011, when the racecourse hosted five more fixtures.”
There was more good news just before Christmas when Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR), which leases the land on which racing takes place from Warwick District Council, announced that it is to pump an extra £4.2 million from its own coffers into prize-money across its portfolio in 2018, increasing total race values by £8m.
The record executive contribution of £27.1m, subject to abandonments, is a massive 18.3% increase on 2017, while the total race values offered across the group’s 15 racecourses next year is set to increase to more than £53m.
Those race values will include around £1.6m from the new industry appearance money scheme, funded by the uplift in the sport’s income from the government’s levy reforms, in which qualifying races will offer payments of at least £300 for horses finishing between fifth and eighth.
Every one of JCR’s 348 fixtures in 2018 will offer at least £40,000 in total race values, with that figure rising to at least £65,000 on Sundays. In addition, each fixture will include at least one race worth £10,000, while 83 per cent will have at least two per meeting, compared to 58 per cent this year.
Warwick, which features amongst the smaller courses including Carlisle, Exeter, Huntingdon, Market Rasen, Nottingham and Wincanton, will have at least one fixture previously worth around £55,000 boosted to £80,000 or more from 2018, meaning it will each stage at least four fixtures worth £80,000 or more next year.
JCR chief executive Paul Fisher said: “This is the Jockey Club’s largest-ever commitment to horsemen and we really hope that will also translate into good news for racing fans.
“I’m very proud of our people who have worked hard to achieve the commercial results we need to be able to offer this. Because we already put all of our money back into the sport, we can only increase our prize-money contribution if we create the commercial returns to do so.”
Most New Year’s Eve packages have already sold-out, but the NYE Party Package is still available, including a three-course meal, exclusive table and advice from a tipster for £90 per person.
Gates open two hours before the first race at 10.30am and under-18s go free, with advanced tickets for the main enclosure priced at £17.50. For more ticket information call 01926 405 560 or go to www.warwickracecourse.co.uk