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Bittar blames 'outdated' model

Fri, 27 July 2012

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Paul Bittar believes racing's "outdated" financial model is the root cause behind the closures of two racecourses.

Hereford and Folkestone are both expected to shut down at the end of the year, although the latter may only be temporary.

Bittar said: "This decision is a matter for Northern Racing and Arena Leisure. We recognise and respect the commercial pressures that lie behind it. While British racing is immensely popular on many levels, and enjoyed record attendances last year, the fact is that the sport's financial model remains badly outdated."

He added: "This undoubtedly makes life very difficult for all who depend on the sport for their living and it also impacts upon racecourses, particularly smaller ones.

"We are encouraged to learn that the fixtures transferred as a result of the closures will benefit from increased prize-money, but the priority for the whole sport remains the modernisation of our funding mechanism to underpin the future of British Racing and ensure a fair return for all participants."

Evan Williams is one of the leading trainers at Hereford, having saddled 18 winners in the last five years at the track, and said: "It really is absolutely devastating. I honestly can't believe it. Along with Chepstow, Hereford is probably our local track and I've had some great days there both as a trainer and a jockey.

"It's always a great place to have runners as it's a great atmosphere and it attracts a proper National Hunt crowd in a proper National Hunt area. It's really upsetting news and it's going to be a massive loss to racing in the west and to trainers in south Wales. It will be a loss to the whole country I think.

"Where there is life there's hope and I just hope something can be done to prevent this from happening."

Fellow Welsh trainer Tim Vaughan said: "It's frightening really. It's quite a shock. It's not as though we've known there were talks going on or anything, it's just come completely out of the blue and it's hard to get your head round at this stage.

"Hereford is a track that is synonymous with National Hunt racing and it will be devastating for everyone if we lose it. Both Hereford and Folkestone are racecourses that have stood the test of time and this is not what racing needs at the moment."