UNLIKE the weekly forecast predicting unsettled weather, prospects for Salisbury's 2019 racing programme remain positively good, writes JOHN HOSKINS.

It is ushered in at 2pm on Sunday when the starter mounts his rostrum, presses a button, and the stalls will flash open for the first race, very much a case of ladies first.

It had been the custom to begin with a six furlong sprint but not this year. Instead it will be a seven furlong race confined to maiden three-year-old fillies.

The highlight is the City Bowl Handicap, believed to be the second oldest named race in Britain with a 400 year plus history. Though it has been run over a series of distances, it has for the last decade been contested over 1mile 6furlongs and this year carries a purse of £22,500 which like the rest of the seven race card is sponsored by the Byerley stud in North Wiltshire.

This season, total prize money amounts to £1.265 million which is fractionally below that of 2018 and reflects the industry's fear that recent legislation on fixed odds betting terminals (FOTB) confining the maximum bet from £100 to £2 per game will affect betting shop turnover and its contribution to racing.

That loss is seen in the course's biggest race of the season, the Tattersalls-sponsored, Group Three Sovereign Stakes run at the August meeting, which has a £1,000 reduction but still worth £75,000.

However course supremo Jeremy Martin is far from downcast.

"We are £35,000 down on last year but happy the vast majority of our races will carry the same prize money. We run as a trust, not for profit. We put in what we can for prize money. Salisbury racecourse is run for the benefit of the sport."

He is equally delighted the relatively mild winter has enabled staff to begin mowing the track in February, unlike last year when it had been so wet that the essential work could not be undertaken until a few days before the first meeting.

The fixtures and fittings have received their customary lick of paint and £30,000 has been allocated on improving the stable staff's accommodation block.

Admission prices have also been held.

The racing programme is as follows, all afternoons except otherwise indicated: Sunday, April 28.

Thursday, May 2 (evening).

Thursday May 16.

Saturday May 25 (evening with music from Spire FM).

Tuesday June 11.

Sunday June 16.

Wednesday June 26.

Saturday July 13 (ladies evening with Little Mix Experience).

Saturday July 27 (evening with The Best of Wham).

Wednesday August 14.

Thursday August 15.

Friday August 23 (evening).

Tuesday September 3 (evening).

Thursday September 5.

Friday September 13 (evening).

Thursday October 3.