Day At The Track

A shocking announcement for York Raceway

07:33 AM 22 Jan 2016 NZDT
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York Raceway, harness racing
York Raceway owner has declined race dates for 2016
Photo courtesy of York Raceway

York, England – In a shocking announcement Wednesday, the British Harness Racing Club (BHRC) announced that Michael Welling, the owner of York Harness Raceway, has decided to withdraw all 2016 fixed dates for racing at the track.

In a statement, the BHRC said, “The BHRC appreciates entirely all the determination, hard work and funding, Mr. Welling has injected into York Harness Raceway and also the extent of what has been achieved there in promoting the racing and the sport. The loss of which is a colossal blow to the BHRC and harness racing.

In his letter to the BHRC Council, Welling wrote;

“It is with deep regret and a heavy heart that I wish to inform the BHRC Council of my decision to withdraw the racing dates with immediate effect for York Harness Raceway, which I have submitted for 2016 season.

Over the past ten years I have invested quite a considerable amount of my own personal money into the track and racing, upgrading the surface, providing new equipment etc., and promoting racing, with very little or no help from the racing fraternity.

Running York Raceway and Promoting Harness Racing takes up quite a considerable amount of my time, which in turns means I have to spend all my time living at the track. As you can all appreciate in this day and age it is not wise to leave a property unattended for any length of time. I no longer wish to live this existence.

As most of you know I have now retired and I would like to spend more time with my family, running York Raceway prevents me from doing so. Therefore I am moving away from Harness Racing to pursue other interests, this decision wasn’t taken lightly.”

“York is the only purpose-built hard track in England,” said Sarah Thomas, an avid horsewoman in Scotland and a reporter for Harnesslink, “There has been and will be this year a fixture at Wolverhampton Racecourse aka Dunstall Park, however this is a Thoroughbred track so technically classed as dual purpose plus they only stage one meeting.

“Tir Prince now serves the north of Wales and all of England as a good hard track for harness racing,” Thomas explained, “and Amman Valley is then based in South Wales and serves Wales and the English counties i.e. Herefordshire). Corbiewood is the most northern track (being in Scotland) that's a hard track.”

The loss of the harness racing meetings at York has been a “hot topic” on social media throughout the UK and Ireland.

Questions to be answered include where the races scheduled at York will be held in 2016. Speculation ranges that they will be “farmed out” to tracks such as Tir Prince and Corbiewood. Also the York Mixed Horse Sale, which has grown from just being the Camden Stud Sale, to a sale for yearlings, broodmares, stallions and racehorses from across the UK and Ireland, will need to find a new home.

“This will have a massive knock on effect with regard to the Le Trot Series (Trotteur Francais purchased under a three year agreement with Le Trot with races to be based at York),” Thomas added, “however Trot Britain had the foresight to tender out their races when York initially indicated that only 4 fixtures would be staged at York in 2016.”

“Around the York area are where some of the UK’s biggest trainers are based,” said Sterling’s Andrew Dick, a horse owner, “Top trainer/drivers Mick Lord and John Gill will literally need to drive past York Raceway just to get to Tir Prince.

“Along with Tir Prince, York is the only real decent hard track we have in the UK,” Dick said, “There are many big time and small time trainers around that area and York would be their base. You will likely find that some small time trainers will sell up as they won’t really have anywhere to race. York has also held some major independent stakes races over the years for big money.

“It's a very bad time for the sport and with Corbiewood in its current state,” Dick said, “and with no real security with Tir Prince, the future really is bleak in the UK.”

It has also been said that the track is for sale and many are praying that somebody within racing will purchase the track and continue racing.

By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

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