Britain’s premier racecourse Ascot, which is 30 miles to the southwest of London, has filled the position of chief executive, nearly four months after Douglas Erskine-Crum announced his resignation.
Charles Barnett, the long-time managing director of Aintree Racecourse which stages the world famous Grand National steeplechase, will take up the role in May just ahead of the five-day Royal Ascot meeting which starts on June 19.
This is after the running of the 2007 John Smith’s Grand National, worth £700,000, on April 14.
Barnett is moving to Ascot where a £220-million rebuild of the grandstands met plenty of criticism when the course re-opened last year. Viewing from parts of the impressive looking stands, particularly from the lower levels, was not satisfactory and an extra £10 million is currently being spent to try and rectify the problems.
Erskine-Crum, who left Ascot after 13 years at the end of 2006, transformed the Royal course, which is ultimately owned by the Queen of England, during his time there and the enormously ambitious re-building project, completed on time and nearly within budget, was meant to be his great legacy.
However, the problems emerged and Ascot, which is partly run by trustees appointed by the Queen, had to find another chief executive.
Barnett has agonized long and hard about taking the job, having been based in the north west of England virtually all his life.
The 58-year-old, who entered racing in1984, has managed the three premier racecourses in the area -- Haydock Park, Chester and, since 1993, Aintree.
He was acting managing director during the 1993 void Grand National and dealt efficiently with the bomb scare in 1997 which delayed running of that year’s Grand National from the Saturday to Monday.
Aintree has taken tremendous strides forward with Barnett in charge, particularly in terms of facilities -- two new grandstands open this year making five in all -- and of popularity with 150,000 attending the three-day meeting last year as against 87,000 in 1992.
Barnett commented: "It was a very hard decision as the Grand National is one of the world’s great events. Ascot is the best known racecourse in the world and I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with the team at Ascot to maintain and enhance this."
The Duke of Devonshire, her majesty’s representative at Ascot, said: "I am delighted that Charles is joining Ascot. He has a huge amount of experience of the racing industry, latterly as the driving force behind the world’s most famous and highest profile jump race, the John Smiths Grand National. He is highly regarded within the racing industry and is the ideal person to lead Ascot into the post-redevelopment era."