Hack writer

Hack writer

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This blog records occasional comments affecting hack riders' use of Epsom and Walton Downs, including reports from meetings of the Conservators and the Consultative Committee. See the downs web page for more information about riding on the downs.

Meeting, 18 January 2017

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 18 Jan, 2017 19:28:32

Apologies: Simon Dow, the trainers' representative, had tendered apologies for his absence.

Training Grounds Management Board: had met the previous day, but the report related to a meeting in November. The racecourse said the board had voiced concern about the reduced staffing situation on the downs. None of the items in the report was discussed (and therefore, nothing about the proposed access to the hatched area, but see the end of this report).

Hack sand track: officers said that the recorded delivery letter had not yet been sent to the Horse Race Levy Board — the chairman asked for this to be sent as a priority.

Head downskeeper's report: the head downskeeper was back on duty, but a dowskeeper was on long term sick leave, another leaving, and another on paternity leave. Support was being provided from the council's ranger service. The chairman asked about the recruitment process, and was told that it would probably take a couple of months. It was observed that substitutes for downskeepers needed to be confident and competent with horses. The racecourse said that the substitute was familiar with working on the downs. The trainers had reported concern about abuse of the training grounds in the afternoon, which was not being addressed owing to the absence of patrols. The head downskeeper said that he had asked staff to do more patrols, including repeat visits to key sites, but there remained many routine functions which could not be omitted. The racecourse explained that the trainers' concern was stimulated by a report on social media which invited use of the training facilities during the afternoon: officers thought it might be possible to target such postings. The head downskeeper said that barriers used to be placed across the all-weather tracks to prevent use by hack riders, but this was no longer done.

Fees for events: the conservators were asked to approve the revised fees and charges. They did, with negligible comment.

Budget 2017–18: a 2.3% increase in precept from the contributing bodies (the council, the racecourse and the trainers) was proposed. Approved.

Parking in front of Derby Arms: the report proposed to endorse, in principle, the use of the green between Derby Arms Road and Ashley Road for parking for events. The racecourse pointed out that the green had been used for contractor parking during the roofing works, but this had ceased since the works were complete. The chairman asked about the need to use the green: didn't the racecourse have a car park adjacent to the race track? The racecourse said it was a 'nicer experience' to park adjacent to the entrance. A member said that there was adequate parking elsewhere, such as on the grand stand apron. The open space was an important part of the Epsom character. Parking was accepted as a part of the racing calendar, but should not be everyday. The racecourse said it would be used as a genuine overflow for antique fairs and the like, because the hard standing was already full. The Tattenham enclosure was less well drained, and therefore less suitable. Another member agreed, saying parking was untidy. Was the public house concerned about the proposal? The chairman wondered whether pub visitors would also use the parking: the racecourse said the parking would be stewarded. Asked about frequency, the racecourse said 12 antiques fairs each year, and perhaps 6 to 10 other events, but no count had been taken, and the racecourse could not say with precision what frequency was sought in the approval. A member said that if the proposal regularised past use, it should be agreed if there was no material change in use. Officers confirmed that approval was sought only in principle, and there should be further consultation with hack riders and others; the conservators could impose conditions on use if they wished. The racecourse referred to use for Woodland Trust planting, and the chairman pointed out that such visitors were well equipped to use the Tattenham enclosure instead. A member said that consultation should envisage a limit on the number of events. It was agreed that there should be consultation with all members of the consultative committee, and with other members of the public who wanted to be involved. A vote on the recommendation was taken, with five in favour and one abstention. The abstention sought confirmation that the matter would return to the committee after consultation. The chairman would look closely at the wording of the consultation, and a draft would be cleared with the conservators.

Racing season: Racing would take place on:

  • Wednesday 26 April
  • Friday 2 June (Ladies’ Day)
  • Saturday 3 June (Derby Day)
  • Thursday 6 July (Evening)
  • Thursday 13 July (Evening)
  • Thursday 20 July (Evening)
  • Thursday 3 August (Evening)
  • Monday 28 August (Bank Holiday)
  • Tuesday 29 August
  • Thursday 14 September
  • Sunday 1 October

with evenings and Sunday meetings approved by the conservators.

In response to a question, the racecourse said there were fewer meetings than permitted for commercial reasons, as mid-week days had performed poorly. There was no wish to hold meetings on an autumn Monday afternoon, which was the sort of opportunity which remained open. Epsom racecourse was more demanding than at other racecourse, and it was more difficult to get horses to run. The racecourse did not want to run low quality races. The average number of runners in 2016 had risen to 8.9 from 8.2, following elimination of poor performing races.

The racecourse said it had fabricated gates to permit continued equestrian access (outside race days) to the Lonsdale enclosure west of the subway, to avoid the problem with removing fencing panels.

The recommendations were approved.

Signs on the downs: a sign audit had been done, and would be brought to the next meeting.

Hatched area: the racecourse said that the training grounds management board should be commended for drawing up proposals to open the hatched area at certain times.

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