Romford have returned to the top of the pile as the most prolific open race venue in 2018, though the overall number of open races  for the year is down around 17% writes Floyd Amphlett.

  ’18 ‘17
Romford 404 534
Nottingham 389 301
Sheffield 355 233
Hove 295 334
Central Park 228 185
Monmore 207 177
Crayford 188 152
Henlow 164 301
Towcester 133 215
Harlow 122 217
Doncaster 80 195
Swindon 71 112
Yarmouth 65 46
Sunderland 62 46
Newcastle 60 58
Perry Barr 27 165
Pelaw Grange 21 21
Shawfield 21 34
Kinsley 19 22
Poole 17 15
Belle Vue 14 122
Peterborough 2 46
Hall Green 19
Mildenhall 17
Wimbledon 42

After being overshadowed by Nottingham at midyear, Romford have returned to their traditional slot as open race leaders though they have staged roughly a fifth fewer open races for the first nine months of 2018.

The track have never seemed to ease up on their commitment, particularly for Friday night fare, though their absence from RPGTV for much of the year appears to have played a significant part in events not filling. Similarly, Nottingham and Sheffield seem to have thrived with the extra TV exposure.

But there are various other factors influencing the figures to a greater or lesser extent including the media rights battle between ARC and SIS, and clear policy changes at venues like Belle Vue and Perry Barr.

There have also been the losses of Hall Green, Mildenhall and Wimbledon, though combined they would only account for around 2% of the decline, while the loss of Towcester is yet to play out.

So what does this all suggest about the current state of the open race scene?

To the end of the month there were 2,944 opens compared to 3,531 for the same period in 2017. Based on current trends, 2018 full year should top out at around 3,800 races.

It will be the lowest figure for at least 20 years, though it is not all doom and gloom. For example, five years ago, the figure was around 4,200 for 26 tracks compared to the current 21.

Furthermore, the ‘typical’ open race at the senior tracks paid £200 to the winner and £40 to the winner, compared to £250 and £50 today. (The equivalent allowing for inflation would be £224 and £44.80.)