ACQUIRING up to 30 new fixtures for floodlit racing is critical to plans to build an all-weather Flat course at Catterick.
Bosses at the North Yorkshire track have been in talks with the British Horseracing Authority for over 18 months and their plans are understood to be more advanced than those that were unveiled by Newcastle last week.
Although no planning application has been submitted, the BHA – and English Heritage – have been closely involved in the process which will see existing Flat turf fixtures replaced with a new surface.
John Sanderson, chief executive of International Racecourse Management which runs Catterick, assured racegoers that National Hunt racing would remain at the track.
“We’re slightly in the hands of the BHA but they have been very encouraging and very helpful,” said Sanderson.
“Catterick is highly accessible and a compact tight track and the action will be finishing under the stands so there should be a good atmosphere.
“One trainer said to me recently that it would mean that they would not have to lay off staff in the winter. As far as we are concerned it is do-able and viable, and Yorkshire has enough horses in training to support it. We have to have an adequate supply of fixtures first.”
There are currently 96 ‘twilight’ fixtures that are divided between Wolverhampton and Kempton, but it is Sanderson’s hope that Catterick can acquire a third of these.
n Nicky Henderson’s Royal Irish Hussar puts his unbeaten hurdles record on the line at Doncaster today in the BetVictor Summit Juvenile Hurdle.
Meanwhile a fascinating BetVictor Handicap Chase sees Henderson’s Bears Affair take on the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Harry The Viking and Sue Smith’s top weight De Boitron who was an impressive winner at Wetherby a week ago.
As well as the bounce factor after a long lay-off, the slight imponderable with De Boitron – the mount of grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania will be whether this classy jumper stays three miles.
n The Queen enjoyed a welcome winner courtesy of Malton-born Andrew Tinkler when Open Hearted prevailed at Bangor yesterday.
Meanwhile, her grand-daughter Zara Phillips and her rugby-playing husband Mike Tindall can dream of Grand National glory after their Monbeg Dude prevailed at Cheltenham yesterday under Tom Scudamore.
Phillips spent the summer schooling the Welsh National winner and it was an emotional win – the horse is trained by the jockey’s brother Michael who has just emerged from a lean spell.
Phillips was keen to deflect all praise to the winning trainer, saying: “No credit should be given to me at all. We just did a bit of teaching him how to use his feet a bit better and be more efficient.”
n The New One will bid to confirm his status as the Champion Hurdle ante-post favourite when the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained winner renews his rivalry with Zarkandar in the StanJames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham today.