LINGFIELD will stage a new £1 million fixture in January in the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival.
Track owners Arena Racing Company (ARC) hope the ‘Winter Million’ will rival the successful Dublin Racing Festival in Ireland.
The new innovation makes the decision by ARC to switch All-Weather Finals Day away from Lingfield to Newcastle easier to swallow for the Surrey track.
The lucrative new meeting will be staged across three days in January, with jumps racing to be held on Friday and Sunday and an all-weather Flat card on the Saturday.
In total, £800,000 of the prize pot will be dedicated to the jumps action, with £200,000 going towards the Flat card, which will feature the first ever ‘Winter Oaks’.
Among the new races will be a £125,000 handicap hurdle and a £125,000 handicap chase.
ARC, who announced on Monday that prize-money at their tracks would be increased by £4 million in 2022, reckon the meeting will provide “high-class opportunities for genuine soft ground horses”.
The two-day Dublin Racing Festival, held at Leopardstown in February, has been a huge success in Ireland and proved an important stepping stone to future Cheltenham Festival champions.
ARC boss Martin Cruddace is hoping Lingfield’s new festival can have the same sort of impact – and he didn’t rule out further cash increases.
He told the Mail: “I don’t want to make rash promises but I would be very surprised if the prize money at Lingfield is stagnant.”
British racing chiefs have been under pressure to come up with a plan to counter the recent Irish dominance at the big spring meetings.
Irish runners battered their British counterparts at Cheltenham in March, winning 23 of the 28 races.
And their clear superiority continued at Aintree as they filled the first five places in the Grand National, which was won by Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore’s Minella Times.
ARC have also announced plans to increase prize-money at their tracks next year, with the total amount on offer £10 million higher than in 2019.
In total, some £41.5 million will be up for grabs at ARC’s 16 tracks, compared to £31.4 million two years ago.
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