The world-famous Royal Ascot race meeting, now five days long, will transfer to York racecourse in the North of England, 200 miles away, for either 2005 or 2006.
Ascot has been deliberating for some months about which racecourse would hold the Royal meeting in either of those two years when it will be closed during its £200 million re-building program and announced the decision on August 9.
Ascot is taking over York, much in the same manner as the Breeders' Cup rotates around North America. York's chief executive William Derby formerly worked at Ascot.
Ascot's chief executive Douglas Erskine-Crum said: "We had four very strong bids from Cheltenham, Newbury, Newmarket and York and we've decided to go to York. It would be fair to say that York and Cheltenham were the two courses that had the facilities that could cope with Royal Ascot. Cheltenham produced a great bid and, although it is the top jumps track in the world, we thought it too risky to race over an unproven track for Flat racing even though they have very good facilities...we felt that York was already a world-class flat racecourse with marvelous facilities. They have a very strong management team -- as an example their attendance has gone up by something like 14 percent this year -- and they just came in with the strongest bid.
"We're going to shut down for 20 months and the current plan, which is dependent on the planning process, is that we will start in October next year and be complete in May, 2006, which means we would move Royal Ascot to York in 2005.," Erskine-Crum continued. "If we do get the planning permission and everything goes well the start is in only 14 months time. Whenever we go, the current plan is that we start in an October and it will take 20 months so would include only one Royal Ascot. We are still working on whether it will be a four- or five-day royal meeting, we will definitely race on the Saturday in some form or other. I should emphasize that this will be called 'Royal Ascot at York,' with the Breeders' Cup as a model. We will finance the prize money and everything and we will be doing track extension work with York. All the long-distance races held at Ascot will be held there on this round course which is very exciting."