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Sunday, August 10, 2003


In an interview with BBC television and a later press conference announcing that Royal Ascot will be held at York in 2005, Ascot’s chief executive Douglas Erskine-Crum yesterday elaborated on the decision.

“We had four very strong bids from Cheltenham, Newbury, Newmarket and York and we’ve decided to go to York. It would be fair to say that York and Cheltenham were the two courses that had the facilities that could cope with Royal Ascot,” said Erskine-Crum.

“Cheltenham produced a great bid, delivered in a hat box by Edward Gillespie, and although it is the top jumps track in the world we thought it too risky to race over an unproven track for Flat racing even though they have very good facilities.

“All four were very strong bids but we felt that York was already a world-class Flat racecourse with marvellous facilities. They have a very strong management team - as an example their attendance has gone up by something like 14 per cent this year - and they just came in with the strongest bid.

“We’re going to shut down for 20 months and the current plan, which is dependant on the planning process, is that we will start in October next year and be complete in May, 2006, which means we would move Royal Ascot to York in 2005. If we do get the planning permission and everything goes well the start is in only 14 months time.

“Whenever we go, the current plan is that we start in an October and it will take 20 months so would include only one Royal Ascot.

“We are still working on whether it will be a four or five-day Royal Meeting, we will definitely race on the Saturday in some form or other.

“I should emphasise that this will be called ‘Royal Ascot at York’, with the Breeders’ Cup as a model. We will finance the prize money and everything and we will be doing track extension work with York. All the long-distance races held at Ascot will be held there on this round course which is very exciting

“We’re now going to look carefully towards the Diamond Meeting, when the views of our sponsor De Beers are particularly important in the decision-making process, then the Festival and we’ll decide what we’re doing with all the other meetings in due course.

“The Queen takes an enormous personal interest in everything at Ascot racecourse and she was kept informed of the process throughout.

“There are a lot of details to work out but we thought we would get the annoucement out first.

The BBC confirmed that it will be televising Royal Ascot from York.

Alan Delmonte, the British Horseracing Board’s communications manager, said: “Ascot’s redevelopment will bring enormous benefit to racing and we will of course continue to work with Ascot to ensure maximum flexibility while they carry out the work.

“We look forward to having detailed discussions with both Ascot and York about the race programme in due course. Like everyone in racing, we want to see the magic of Royal Ascot continue wherever it is staged.”



Following extensive consultation, Ascot Racecourse is delighted to announce that, during the main building phase of its forthcoming redevelopment, the Royal Meeting will be staged at York.

The transfer of Royal Ascot is scheduled for June 2005 (to commence Tuesday 14th) but this is subject to receiving planning permission in time to commence the main scheme in October 2004. In the event of a delay, the Royal Meeting will be transferred to York in 2006 (to commence Tuesday 13th June).

"Our plans have been well received and we hope our application will be heard by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead later this summer," said Douglas Erskine-Crum, Chief Executive at Ascot.

"If approved at that stage, the application will then be referred to the office of the Deputy Prime Minister, who will decide whether to give permission for the scheme at that time or call a public enquiry. We are cautiously optimistic of the former scenario, which would give us good prospects for starting in October 2004, as planned. However, as is always the case with schemes on this scale, we are vulnerable to the vagaries of the decision making process.

"Royal Ascot at York will be run along similar lines to the way in which the Breeders' Cup organisers stage their event with a host racecourse in the United States every year. Ascot will run the event with both organisations working together to make this unique Royal Meeting a success.

"I would like to thank the executives of Cheltenham, Newbury and Newmarket for their highly impressive bids - this was not an easy decision."

Royal Ascot at York will be the official title of the meeting, which will be televised by the BBC, as will all transferred Ascot fixtures during the close down period.

"A Royal Enclosure will operate at York," added Erskine-Crum. "But it's too early to speculate on other issues. At this stage, we are just delighted to be able to announce that York has come out as the preferred temporary home for Royal Ascot because of its proven ability to stage major Flat racing festivals, the standard of track and ground, facilities for racegoers on course and the infrastructure of the surrounding area.

"This early announcement will enable York to take forward their plans to construct a round course which is needed to accommodate certain race distances for Royal Ascot."

William Derby, Chief Executive at York, added: "We're delighted and honoured by this decision, which promises a unique spectacle for people in the York region. There has been a lot of excitement and positive comment in the area since the move became a possibility. We'll provide help and technical support to the Ascot team whenever required - before, during or after Royal Ascot at York."


York Racecourse's chief executive has said he is "delighted and honoured" by the decision to stage Royal Ascot at the leading northern venue.

The Yorkshire course was one of several alternative homes examined by Ascot officials earlier in the year when it became clear the £180m redevelopment planned at the Berkshire track would prevent the Royal Meeting being staged on home turf in a future year.

This event is now scheduled to take place at York in 2005, beginning on Tuesday 14 June, subject to Ascot receiving planning permission in time to start its main redevelopment scheme in October 2004. If work is delayed beyond that date, the meeting will transfer to York in 2006, beginning on Tuesday 13 June.

William Derby, chief executive at York, said: "Our course is run for the good of racing and we responded to the request of our counterparts at Ascot for the use of our track because we understood the importance to the sport of the world's most famous race meeting continuing. We're proud of our racecourse and hope the decision to transfer the meeting to York will be widely welcomed."

Mr Derby said the team at York were already great fans of the Royal Meeting, recognising it as a magnificent sporting and social occasion, providing a unique mix of world class racing, pageantry and style.

He continued: "We're delighted and honoured by this decision, which promises a unique spectacle for people in York and the surrounding region. There has been a lot of excitement and positive comment in the area since the move became a possibility."

Mr Derby said hosting the event would be a little strange for the York team, however, as its agreement with Ascot involved handing the course over for the duration of the fixture, the meeting remaining Ascot's responsibility.

He explained: "We'll provide help and technical support to the Ascot team whenever required - before, during or after the meeting is held at York - but it will be for the Ascot team to determine issues such as admission prices and use of private boxes.

"Racing fans will understand the model as similar to that for the American Breeders’ Cup and we'll be in a broadly similar position to the Millennium Stadium, when it hosts cup finals for the FA and Football League."

Mr Derby said York would still stage its own meetings throughout the season it hosted Royal Ascot, so racegoers could continue to enjoy the Ebor Festival, May Meeting and John Smith's Cup, in the normal way.

He added: "Because we're staging an event on the scale of Royal Ascot at York, we'll need time to prepare the buildings and course. Therefore our popular Friday and Saturday fixture, usually held the week preceding the Royal Meeting, will not take place."

Mr Derby said his team had been in contact with its partners at Halifax based-Timeform, whose involvement in York's June Saturday meeting since 1972 had helped raise over £3m for charity, throughout its discussions with Ascot.

He added: "Timeform is as delighted as ourselves at this opportunity for racing in the north. All concerned are committed to the contribution to charitable organisations continuing in the year we host the Royal Meeting, and the arrangements for making this and alternative ways of dealing with Timeform raceday are now being explored."

Mr Derby added the executive was investigating ways of retaining 15 racedays at York in the season it hosted the Royal Meeting, but this was part of a lengthy planning process that could only begin in earnest now Ascot's decision had been made. He appealed for patience and understanding from people keen to know decisions on this and other issues.

He said: "We know this announcement will prompt queries, including from frequent racegoers at York keen to experience the Royal Meeting. But there'll be no early answers to the questions they'll raise, as many will need careful consideration by the Ascot team. We will, though, provide information to the public as it becomes available.

"In the immediate future, I'm sure people will understand our focus being the showcase Ebor Festival, starting on Tuesday 19 August."

Lord Halifax, chairman of York Racecourse, said he wanted to thank his team and praise outside organisations such as City of York Council, regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, North Yorkshire Police, course caterers Craven Gilpin and train operating companies GNER and Arriva, as well as local MPs, all of whom made considerable contributions to the course's very strong submission.

He said: "I have no doubt the continuing goodwill, co-operation and professionalism of all concerned will enable Ascot to stage a hugely successful Royal Meeting here, which will bring substantial benefits to the area."

Lord Halifax added being asked to host the Royal Meeting represented the latest boost to the reputation of York.

He said: "Our crowds are up 14 per cent so far this year and the £20m Ebor Stand, opened in May, has been very well received.

"The reputation of York was on a long-term upward curve before the question of staging the meeting was raised. The fact such a prestigious event is to be held at the Knavesmire can only enhance the regard in which it is held."


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