End of the flat-racing era at Warwick course

Warwick racecourse NNL-141004-095206001
Warwick racecourse NNL-141004-095206001

Warwick Racecourse has announced that it is to abandon flat racing in favour of an all-jumps programme from next year.

Accidents at the course, and increasing financial pressures, are believed to be behind the decision.

On May 20 a meeting had to be abandoned following the fatal fall by Artful Lady which led to flat race jockeys refusing to ride beyond the second race after a heavy downpour.

There have been complaints about the dangers of Warwick’s stiff final turn before - two years ago it led to leading jockey Ryan Moore breaking his wrist.

But on Wednesday Ian Renton, regional director of Jockey Club Racecourses, tried to look on the bright side, saying: “Warwick can now benefit from a clear identity and, in coming years, significant investment as a top quality small jumps course.”

Problems have been mainly on the round course where races of seven furlongs and over are run. Although concerns have also been expressed about the sprint course.

At the time the Jockey Club pointed out that Artful Lady fell at the end of a six-furlong chute which had not been the subject of any previous concern. But it’s likely they were not prepared to risk another fatality.

From next year there will be a 17-fixture all-jumps race programme and the vision is that Warwick will become one of the UK’s leading small jumps courses within the next five years.

During 2012 bad weather led to a quarter of all Warwick’s meetings being cancelled. But last year there was an upturn in fortunes with better crowds and the trend expected to continue this year.

Two of the course’s remaining six meetings will be all-sprint cards and the other four fixtures moved to Nottingham and Carlisle.

The Warwickshire Oaks will also go to Nottingham and the Eternal Stakes to Newmarket’s July Course as part of its Armed Forces Day card on June 28.