TRAINERS have welcomed the second proposal in a week to create an all-weather floodlit horseracing course in the North.
Bosses at Catterick Bridge Racecourse will hold talks with the British Horseracing Association (BHA) today (Tuesday, December 17) over replacing its turf flat course with an artificial surface to sit alongside its National Hunt track.
It is understood International Racecourse Management (IRM), which runs Catterick, will press for the chance to stage a third of the 96 twilight meetings being held at tracks in the Midlands and the South and winter meetings.
The plan, which has been in development for two years, was revealed a week after Newcastle Racecourse unveiled a similar proposal, saying it intended to submit an application for a £10m redevelopment by the end of January.
The Newcastle course’s owners Arena Racing Company say its all-weather course could be ready for the 2015 season.
IRM said while 2016 would be the earliest it could stage fixtures on an artificial surface and that its position beside the A1 in North Yorkshire would be beneficial to both race-goers and trainers.
Its chief executive John Sanderson said: “We have to have an adequate supply of fixtures first. We have been working on this for a while and with the BHA, which has been extremely helpful.
"Catterick has a number of advantages. There's a big horse population trained in Yorkshire and it's got a lot of racecourses as well.
"The proximity to the A1 and the accessibility is obviously quite important when we are talking about the core winter period of all-weather racing and twilight fixtures."
Trainer David Nicholls, who trains 100 horses at his stables in Sessay, near Thirsk, welcomed the plans for Catterick, saying winter race meetings in the North would prove popular as race-goers and trainers faced lengthy journeys to attend fixtures during colder months.
Trainers across the region have said the introduction of winter fixtures in the North could mean they can employ staff all year round.
Catterick Bridge councillor Carl Les said any extra jobs created by the plan would be welcome, but warned of potential issues for nearby residents and for traffic on the A1 with the introduction of evening meetings.
As the racecourse is on the site of the Roman town of Caractonium, IRM officials have held numerous meetings with English Heritage to ensure its plans do not affect the archaeology.
An English Heritage spokesman said: "We have had some constructive meetings with the applicant and are keen to keep working with them to help secure a viable future for the racecourse with a development that is sensitive to the Scheduled Monument."
A BHA spokesman said it was examining the market demand, benefits and potential downsides regarding an expansion of all-weather racing.