NEW saddling boxes and a new pre-parade ring will greet racegoers when York Racecourse’s 2014 season gets under way on Wednesday.
The first phase in the track’s £5 million redevelopment is virtually complete and the modern saddling boxes, vet treatment room and wash down areas - along with a larger pre-parade ring - will be used for the first time at the Dante Festival.
Workmen are putting the final touches to the boxes and racegoers who turn out to watch the opening day’s contests - including the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes - will also notice the shell of what will become the new weighing room.
That building is not expected to be used until next season.
James Brennan, York Racecourse’s head of marketing, said: “It is a perfect project for us because phase one is about the horses and everything we do is about the horses.
“It’s about horse welfare and it is about giving horses the best opportunity to perform of their best and that is at the core of the sport and why many people come racing.”
The former pre-parade ring has been replaced by a temporary champagne pavilion. The overall scheme, known as the northern end development, will eventually see a champagne terrace built on that area.
“We are aware that, for lots of other people, it is partly the sport, it is partly the social occasion, it’s partly the experience and the great thing about how the space now works is, having dedicated the north west corner to horses, horsemen and those who want to see them in that new bigger space, it frees up the north east corner for use by racegoers,” added Brennan.
“It’s a fabulous place to be. The view, back down over the main parade ring, is head on to the straight. As the summer comes on and as people discover it, that will be a fabulous new space for racegoers.”
On some of the other benefits for racegoers coming from the completion of the new pre-parade ring, Brennan added: “It is single storey but we hope it has had a level of thought and a lot of consultation has gone into it. Immediately for racegoers, right from the Dante Festival, what it does is open up a lot better viewing of horses in the pre-parade ring.
“One of the long sides is open for racegoer viewing and that’s not something we had in the past in the former configuration. For the horses the pre-parade ring is bigger and flatter, about 25 per cent bigger than its predecessor. But for racegoers, that space has probably quadrupled.”