The long-awaited 2024 fixture list has been released by the British Horseracing Authority.
The introduction of ‘Premier Racedays’ had already been announced, while there has also been an effort to significantly boost Sunday racing.
There will be 170 Premier Raceday cards in 2024 across 38 courses. In comparison only 115 meetings in 2023 would have met the criteria which the BHA believes shows the willingness of courses to improve the product they are offering.
It is believed that by creating two tiers it will help point customers towards the headline meetings, and by giving them more space in the 2-4pm slot giving them “room to breath” will allow the sport to better promote stories and improve betting revenue.
During the window there will be two Premier fixtures with only one other allowed in the 2-4pm slot on 33 Saturdays while on the remaining 19 four meetings will be allowed. Of the others, five meetings will begin earlier than this year with the addition of a new fixture at Chelmsford making six. There will be 36 meetings starting later than this year.
As for the famously packed Saturday on July 13, Newmarket, York and Ascot will race between 2-4pm while Chester will start later with Hamilton and Salisbury in the evening.
Sunday racing will feature better quality racing and also a trial of evening racing. There will be 29 Premier Sunday Racedays.
There will be a trial of six Sunday evenings in the first quarter of 2024 with £145,000 in prize-money required for each, while there will be additional payments for jockeys and grooms involved at these meetings.
Premier Racedays will benefit from a total of £3.8million in funding from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB).
Another issue addressed is that of field sizes, statistically at their lowest for 30 years over both Flat and jumps. As a result 20 National Hunt fixtures have been cut meaning there will be 1,468 compared to 1,488 in 2023.
Another initiative to increase competitiveness is that class four handicaps with three or fewer declarations will now be cancelled.
Julie Harrington, chief executive of the BHA, said: “Compiling this year’s fixture list was a truly collaborative process on a scale which I have never before seen in our industry, with the sport pulling in the same direction to achieve a shared objective. I am extremely grateful to my teams at the BHA and everyone across the sport who has engaged so constructively in this process.
“There was agreement across the industry that steps were required to increase racing’s appeal to customers at the earliest opportunity, as well as addressing the current headwinds facing the sport.
“We accept and expected that, with significant change, there will always be some who feel that the cards have not fallen their way. However, the objective for these changes is that they grow the sport as a whole, with benefits that reach throughout the entire industry in the medium to long-term.
“This is the first major step in what is a long-term transformational plan. The expectation is that the changes should generate more revenue, which will allow us to invest in other key areas – including attracting new fans and new owners and increasing the reward and recognition of all our existing participants.
“All of these changes are being introduced on a trial basis. They will be closely monitored and measured.”