The second All-Weather Championships commenced today at Lingfield Park following a very successful first edition which culminated in a sell-out £1-million Finals Day at the Surrey course on Good Friday 2014.
Significant changes have been made, with the main one being the addition of another Championship category - Three-Year-Old Sprint - joining the existing six. This means prize money for the second Finals Day, on Good Friday, April 3, 2015 will rise to £1.1 million.
New sponsor Unibet backs the Three-Year-Old Sprint category in addition to the Sprinter Championship. The three other betting partners and sponsors, Coral, Ladbrokes and 32Red, were involved in the very successful first All-Weather Championships season and continue their association.
Coral supports the Middle Distance Championship, while Ladbrokes sponsors the Mile Championship. 32Red backs three Championships categories - Three-Year-Old, Fillies & Mares and Marathon.
Another change is to make the All-Weather Championships more international. As well as Fast-Track Qualifiers at the five British All-Weather courses - Lingfield Park, Southwell and Wolverhampton run by ARC plus Chelmsford City and Kempton Park - for the first time such qualifiers will be at Dundalk in Ireland and Cagnes-Sur-Mer and Deauville in France.
Horses who do not win a Fast-Track Qualifier must run a minimum of three times during the All-Weather Championships in Britain or, in a new initiative, one of the three runs can now take place on Meydans dirt surface in Dubai or on the All-Weather at Dundalk, Cagnes-Sur-Mer, Chantilly and Deauville.
Jim Allen, the ARC Racing Director, commented today: The major change is that we have a new All-Weather Championships category after extensive consultations. We no longer have an apprentice race on Finals Day and that has been replaced by the £150,000 Three-Year-Old Sprint over five furlongs.
As a result of that, the Three-Year-Old category that we had last year will have a mile final, rather than being run over seven furlongs. The winner Ertijaal went on to run in the 2,000 Guineas and hopefully next year it will be used as a springboard to the Guineas by other horses.
Chelmsford City, who join in this year, and Kempton Park will both stage three Fast-Track Qualifiers.
There is a brand new tipping contest on the At The Races website which will deliver the Champion All-Weather Tipster who gains a £10,000 first prize.
We are keen to develop the international interest in the All-Weather Championships after having some overseas runners last season.
This season, we are allowing one All-Weather run to count at Dundalk, Cagnes-Sur-Mer, Chantilly and Deauville plus Meydans dirt track. Hopefully, this means we will have overseas runners on £1.1-million Finals Day next year.
Since the finish of the first All-Weather Championships in April, we have been inundated by trainers and owners telling us they are keeping horses to race on the All-Weather this winter. Hopefully, this will continue to improve field sizes, betting turnover and overall interest in the All-Weather.
We were delighted with the success of the first All-Weather Championships, the 90 per cent increase in horses rated 100 and over running and Finals Day was amazing. Prize money was up in all classes of racing on the All-Weather and we had some fantastic horses turn up.
Tony Kelly, ARC Managing Director, introduced the press conference at Lingfield Park today and welcomed the new sponsor Unibet, plus praised Channel 4s decision to broadcast live next years Finals Day.
He said: I want to say thank you to the sponsors of the second All-Weather Championships, Unibet, new this year, plus 32Red, Ladbrokes and Coral. Their support is very much appreciated.
I also want to thank At The Races who are our media partner and their coverage has been fantastic. It is a step in the right direction that Channel 4 will be here on Good Friday, boosting the coverage that day.
I think All-Weather Racing has come a long way in 25 years - a lot of the worlds championships are run on a synthetic or dirt surface, such as this weekends Breeders Cup in America. The UK has not anything to rival that and it really is our ambition to put the All-Weather Championships up there with those events and on a world stage.
We achieved more than we thought in year one of the All-Weather Championships and so we want to go even further forward this season.
George Baker is the new All-Weather Championships Ambassador. The jockey said: The most important thing last All-Weather season was the better class of horse running and from my point of view the boosted prize money.
I will be doing a weekly blog and I would like to give Adam Kirby competition for the All-Weather Jockeys title. I will be riding as much as I can on the All-Weather but I have limited opportunities with my weight.
Adam and I are both pretty heavy but Luke Morris is difficult to beat as he has plenty of rides.
Alan Pickering, owner of Robin Hoods Bay who won the £100,000 coral.co.uk Winter Derby at Lingfield Park in February and then finished third in the £200,000 Coral Easter Classic on All-Weather Finals day, is planning to have six runners this All-Weather Championships season.
He explained: As an owner, one of the advantages of the All-Weather is the predictability of the surface. I dont think anybody could have predicted the step-change last winter with the All-Weather Championships.
The narrative from October to April kept going and it was a privilege to have a horse who was part of that narrative. Luke Morris, on the Morning Line last Saturday, said that his favourite out of 1,500 rides this year was winning the Winter Derby on Robin Hoods Bay. For Luke Morris to say that about a horse not trained by Sir Mark Prescott is quite brave indeed!
This year I have no Robin Hoods Bay but six horses to go to war with during the winter on the All-Weather. One horse who will benefit particularly from the new category is Primrose Valley, already the talk of the town in Wolverhampton, as she won the first race in Britain on Tapeta by six lengths. She is a very small two-year-old filly and now rated 90 and normally all roads would lead to Tattersalls Sales. All roads for a sprinter rated 90 now lead to Lingfield on Good Friday.
Tony Kelly made a presentation to Alan Pickering and also to Robin Longstaff-Tyrrell, an All-Weather expert, who retires next month after helping establish All-Weather Racing in Britain.
ARC entertained 100 people at Lingfield Park today, many connected with the establishment and continuation of All-Weather Racing in Britain, including All-Weather pioneer Ron Muddle.
The first Fast-Track Qualifier was run today, with the Listed £40,000 32Red/ebfstallions.com Fleur De Lys Fillies Stakes won by the Charlie Appleby-trained Tearless, a four-year-old Street Cry filly ridden by Alan Kirby who said: She is quite a talented filly but has her little quirks.
I am off to a good start in the All-Weather Championships and hopefully the success will continue.
Godolphin enjoyed a double when the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Hidden Gold, partnered by Fredrik Tylicki, took the other £40,000 Listed race, the 32Red.com Choose EBF Nominated River Eden Fillies Stakes over a mile and five furlongs on Polytrack in a new course record time of 2m 39.70s.
The improving three-year-old Shamardal filly is likely to stay in training and Frederik Tylicki commented: This is the type of filly who is progressing in the second half of the season. She is very honest and very tough. She has been working well at home and travelled around here very sweetly.
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