THE first stage of a £5 million redvelopment of York Racecourse is on track to be completed by the start of the new racing season in May.

Constructors have been hard at work over the winter creating a new, larger, pre-parade ring along with modern saddling boxes, vet treatment and wash down areas.

James Brennan, head of marketing on Knavesmire, said they were all scheduled to be in operation, as planned, when the Dante Festival gets under way on May 14.

"It's been a busy winter and we've been fortunate that the worst of the weather has avoided North Yorkshire," he said.

"Lindum York have been on site since the day after The Press Family Raceday last September and have been very busy for the six months in between.

"With 50-odd days to the start of the season, the pre-parade ring and saddling boxes are all on track and we are looking forward to welcoming the equine and human stars back on May 14."

The project, known as the northern end development, will be completed in several phases over the next few years with a new weighing room and a champagne terrace, on the site of the former pre-parade ring, aiming to help increase even further the racecourse's popularity.

Foundations for the new weighing room will be in place come May, but Brennan added there was not an "exact timeline" at this stage for its completion.

"They are making good progress for Dante 2015," he explained. "We hope it will be a positive change. It 's a great project for us because it started being about the horses.

"It wasn't something we had to change. It (old configuration) worked perfectly well with the former pre-parade ring and crossing point.

"We looked at it and the final tipping point was the day when the mighty Frankel came here in August 2012.

"So many people wanted to go and see him in the pre-parade ring and we just looked and thought there had to be a better way of doing it."

The new pre-parade ring will allow more people to watch the horses, thanks to an area set aside for viewing, before they are led into the parade ring immediately in front.

"It will be a far bigger space," Brennan added. "The slight oval shape of the new pre-parade ring will see one of the long sides dedicated to public viewing.

"By the time the project is completed there will be several grass steps on that side. That might not be formed quite in time for the Dante Festival but there will be a way of viewing the horses and the project will then come to fruition through the summer. "

The overall project was made possible by realigning the old northern perimeter wall - adding a third of an acre of leased land that unlocked the extra space required to build the new pre-parade ring and saddling boxes.