WETHERBY RACECOURSE will stage its first ever flat meeting next April, but chief executive Jonjo Sanderson insists there is no intention to abandon jumps racing.

Wetherby has been a jumps-only venue throughout its 123-year history, but an application to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to stage a maiden flat meeting has proved successful.

The course’s flat debut will take place on Sunday, April 26,2015 after the BHA confirmed its first tranche of fixtures for the new season yesterday.

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Wetherby staged a flat trial over a series of distances in June, which was deemed to have been a success.

The course is branching out into flat racing in order to attract a wider range of clientele, but Sanderson is adamant the move does not mean a long-term abandonment of National Hunt.

“We are delighted to have been allocated our first flat raceday,” he said. “The day is a conversion of an existing jumps fixture, which had been scheduled to take place the previous Sunday.

“The rationale behind the introduction of flat racing at Wetherby is to try and grow our business and attract a new customer base, as well as achieving a greater utilisation of the excellent equine and customer facilities that the racecourse has to offer.

“This should not be seen as a step towards the end of jump racing at Wetherby – in fact the opposite. Any flat racing fixtures we secure will be supplementary to our core activity of jump racing and provide vital support to Wetherby’s jumps racing programme.”