A FAMILY-RUN racecourse says it is odds-on for a renaissance after becoming the first in the region to launch an in-house betting operation.

Ripon Racecourse is hoping its decision to sever ties with the Tote will help it increase the annual average 80,000 punters through its turnstiles.

The revenue-generating venture follows the 113-year-old track, known as Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse, suffering low attendances last year as 50 per cent of its meetings were affected by the weather.

Loading article content

Its owners, the Hutchinson family, expect to see a 20 per cent rise in revenue from betting, which will be ploughed back into increasing its annual £850,000 prize money for racehorse owners and to improve facilities.

Managing director James Hutchinson said he hoped the rise in prize money would lead to higher quality and more competitive racing and larger crowds at the 16 meets this season.

In recent years, several North Yorkshire trainers have complained about the prize money at some courses falling below that recommended by the Horseman’s Group, which represents owners, trainers, jockeys and stable staff.

And Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh has called for measures to help racehorse trainers cope with the levels of prize money, record diesel prices and rising fodder costs.

Mr Hutchinson said he believed the change from the Tote’s pool betting to offering up to 50 fixed odds windows around the one mile, five furlong track, which competes with Thirsk, Catterick, Redcar, Wetherby and York racecourses, could give it a competitive advantage.

Betfred was given a seven-year monopoly on pool betting when it bought the Tote from the Government in 2011, but racecourses are not obliged to let it operate on their property.

However, Racecourse Media Group, which manages the media and betting rights of the nearby tracks, completed a deal with the Tote last month to retain pool betting until 2018.

Mr Hutchinson said: “This is a very exciting change. We are an independent course and that is probably why we were able to make the decision a little more easily than a lot of courses.”

The racecourse, which follows Chester and Bangor in ending its links with the Tote, will unveil the RiponBET system at its first event of the season, the Ripon Cock o' the North Handicap, on April 18.

More Ripon News