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The Association Of Irish Racecourses yesterday warned the Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, and the Minister for Agriculture, Joe Walsh, it is prepared to go to the courts in order to protect its ownership of media rights.

The ministers' proposals to create a new amalgamated ruling body for racing called 'Horse Racing Ireland', which were controversially released last week, included the aim that 'the sale of all rights be centrally negotiated by HRI'.

It elaborated by saying: 'For the first three years the income from media rights to any races run on a racecourse shall accrue to that racecourse. At the end of the three-year period the average income which accrued to each racecourse during that period shall be guaranteed to the racecourse for a future period.'

On Friday, both the Turf Club and the AIR, surprised by the timing of the ministers' statement and proposals, expressed their disapointment and the AIR in particular were adamant that the media rights were their property.

Yesterday the AIR spokesman Frank Smyth said: 'The media rights have always been the property of the racecourses and the 1994 Act only confirmed that. It is our view that constitutionally the media rights are ours and we are prepared to defend them. Legally if we have to.'

He added: 'Racecourses have borrowed so much money to develop their facilities, and the income from media rights are of major importance in terms of repayments. Constitutionally the rights are the property of the owners of the property. It's the same in England and many other countries.'

Ownership of the media rights to Irish racing are an integral part of Minister McCreevy's controversial plan to have racing ruled by one body. It is a plan that has been mooted for the last eight months and on Thursday last both he Joe Walsh unveiled their proposals at a time when the Turf Club and the AIR believed negotiations were still taking place.

Both the Turf Club and the AIR have said that intensive consultation will take place among their members and clarification also sought from the ministers about the 'HRI' proposals. That appears to have put a stop sign on hopes that an agreement could have been announced during the upcoming Galway festival.

Rudi's Pet completed his preparation for his bid to win the King George Stakes at Goodwood tomorrow for the second year running with a solo spin at Ripon yesterday. The six-year-old went five furlongs in the hands of former jockey Sean Keightley and looked in good heart, finishing strongly.

Trainer David Nicholls was at Ascot and said: 'He was in good form, like the rest of the horses we will be running at Goodwood, and this will have put the finishing touches to his work'.