VISITORS to Chester Racecourse for the second year of the three-day August event will see horse racing with a difference.
As well as three days of thoroughbred racing, there will be races around The Roodee during the first two days under the auspices of the four-year-old Arabian Racing Organisation.
On Thursday, August 28, there's an open race over a distance of just under a mile while on the second day of the festival there's a handicap race for apprentice riders over ten furlongs.
Each race will be run prior to the start of scheduled racing.
The sport of Arabian Racing is growing in popularity. Just last month, more than 10,000 people attended an Arabian Racing meeting at Newbury.
Professional jockey Richard Hills, who is frequently seen riding on The Roodee in thoroughbred races, takes part in Arabian Racing.
Current Flat racehorse trainer Gay Kelleway, a top professional lady rider in the past, still rides Arabian horses, while Ann Duffield, wife of veteran Flat jockey George, is high up in the 2003 Arabian Racing trainers' championship.
The August Festival of Racing, Food & Drink is a showcase and celebration of what is best about food and drink in the North West and is supported by North West Fine Foods, Made in Cheshire, and the Northwest Food Alliance.
* Admission prices to the County Stand Concourse is £25 (Thursday and Friday) and £30 (Saturday), to Tattersalls & Paddock £17 (Thursday and Friday) and £20 (Saturday), for the Dee Stand £7 on each day and for the Open Course £5 on each day.
Badges can be bought on the racecourse's credit card hotline on 01244 304610, which is open between 9am and 4.45pm, Mondays to Fridays.
For more information, visit www.chesterraces.co.uk or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The next fixture at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse is on Saturday afternoon. The first race is scheduled for 2.05pm.
Admission to the Course Enclosure is £6, while the Paddock Enclosure is £12. Accompanied children enter free. For more information, visit www.BangorOnDeeRaces.co.uk or phone the race-course on 01978 780323.
* CHESTER Racecourse was one of the big winners when the most radical overhaul of British horse racing fixtures in modern times was announced last week.
And Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse has maintained an excellent spread of customer-friendly race meetings.
The showpiece occasion of the racing season at The Roodee - the three-day May Festival - gets a new slot running from Wednesday to Friday.
This change from Tuesday to Thursday is seen as being much more customer friendly, moving it away from a Bank Holiday weekend.
In another advantageous change, the finale to the season is brought forward by two weeks to a Saturday. Prior to next year, the 12th and final fixture has been on a Wednesday towards the end of September.
The new date is more conducive to an exciting conclusion to the year's racing on The Roodee.
The Ladies' Evening in early June moves forward from a Wednesday to a Tuesday but, otherwise, Chester's fixtures remain intact, including the second three-day festival meeting in August.
Richard Thomas, chief executive of the Chester Race Company, said: 'I'm a great believer in continuity of fixtures, especially, for example, our Family Funday on the first Sunday in August.
'However, we have taken advantage of the opportunities to improve further our racing schedule from next year. I am particularly pleased with the May Festival moving from Tuesday-Thursday to Wednesday-Friday. This change will enable us to give a greater focus to the first day.'
For one of Britain's small National Hunt race-courses, Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse has done well to keep most of its customer and racegoer-friendly fixture list for 2004.
Half of its 14 annual meetings are out of 'office hours', including five on Saturday afternoons.
Clerk of the Course Michael Webster said: 'We have an excellent spread of fixtures as before, with good breaks in the summer and winter to ensure that we provide some of the best ground conditions among British racecourses.
Our major feature meetings, like Wrexham Raceday and Countryside Day, will be maintained on new dates in 2004.
Chester's 2004 fixture list:
May Festival: Wednesday 5, Thursday 6 and Friday 7
Ladies' Evening: Tuesday, June 8 (evening) Roman Day: Saturday, June 26 July Meeting: Friday 9 (evening) and Saturday July 10
Family Funday: Sunday, August 1 August Festival: Thursday 19, Friday 20 and Saturday 21
September Meeting: Saturday 11 Bangor-on-Dee's 2004 fixture list: February: Friday 13 March: Wednesday 10 & Saturday 27 April: Saturday 17 & Friday evening 30 May: Saturday 15 & Tuesday evening 25 July: Friday 30 August: Saturday 14 & Thursday 26 September: Friday 10 October: Saturday 9 November: Friday 26 December: Wednesday 15