- Northern Racing said it has made a good start to the current year.

In a statement prepared for today's AGM, non-executive chairman Graham Stow said trading is well up to expectations.

He said the group's events and venue hire business continues to grow. Catering income is starting to show positive signs benefiting from the 2004 review of all catering contracts.

This has led to the replacement of some contractors and to the establishment of an embryonic bulk purchase agreement for wines and spirits. Stow said new well known brand names such as Harry Ramsdens and Cafe Ritazza will increasingly be apparent in the group's mobile food outlets.

Stow also updated on its plans for an All Weather Track development at Sedgefield.

As part of this, Northern Racing intended to convert a number of its own turf fixtures to All Weather primarily, but not exclusively, because the Sedgefield turf track would be closed for a year after re-laying.

The application was rejected by the British Horseracing Board (BHB). In addition the BHB also surprisingly contested the ownership of fixtures by all racecourses.

Stow said that whilst the group remains absolutely committed to an All Weather Track at Sedgefield, it cannot proceed with the development until the industry has resolved these issues.

The Racecourse Association are currently in the process of establishing these fixture rights.

Stow said a major challenge for the group in this coming year will be the participation in the new competitive bidding process for certain fixture slots.

He said the group suspects very few slots will change. Of the 1,364 fixtures in total only 161 will be the subject of the bidding process,which is to be done by an on-line auction in June.

In conclusion, Stow said the group's industry environment remains challenging but it looks to the future with confidence.