All weather racing boost for Newmarket

A NEW chapter has started in the 350-year history of one of the world's most famous racecourses with the endorsement of a new £6 million all-weather track.

A NEW chapter has started in the 350-year history of one of the world's most famous racecourses with the endorsement of a new £6 million all-weather track.

Newmarket Racecourses was given the official go-ahead yesterdayby the British Horseracing Board(BHB) to build an artificial all-weather track alongside Suffolk's historic Rowley Mile Course, heralding all-year racing fixtures and signalling a substantial boost for the town's economy.

BHB chief executive Greg Nicholsmade the announcement after a lengthy meeting at which an application for all-weather facilities at Sedgefield racecourse was also approved and one from Newbury was withdrawn.

He said: "BHB considered that the construction of additional facilities at Newmarket and Sedgefield would benefit British Racing.

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"The sport is vibrant and growing and the willingness to invest substantial sums should give racing every confidence in itself."

Newmarket managing director Lisa Hancock said: "We are all delighted, it's great news and a major step forward, now we have to concentrate on getting the right fixtures."

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The news has also been welcomed by Newmarket mayor Robin Millar, who said it was part of a major trend of inward investment in the town.

He said: "It's good for the town and it's good for racing and it means more trainers will consider basing themselves in the town.

"There are lots of reasons to visit Newmarket and this is one more, and yet another example of significant investment in the town."

Mr Millar said the all-weather track, along with multi-million pound investments in a new Waitrose store, and the extension and refurbishment of the town's Rookery shopping centre and proposed leisure and tourism facilities heralded an unprecedented boom period for Newmarket.

Newmarket clerk of the course Michael Prosser said the presence of all-year round racing would have significant effect on the local economy, encouraging people to keep horses in training over the winter months.

He said: "People who normally take their horses out of training for the winter months will be encouraged by the prize money which all-weather racing now attracts.

"This will have the knock-on effect of keeping stable staff in the town over winter, many of whom normally move on to other racing centres or abroad, thus retaining the income generated within local businesses and Newmarket is uniquely placed to take advantage of this as the number one training centre for horses on the flat."

Construction work is expected to start at the beginning of June at the course, which has been acknowledged as the home of horseracing since race meetings were held by Charles II, whose nickname was Old Rowley, in the mid-17th Century.

Fixtures for the 2005 racing season are due to be published next month, and depending on the allocation, racing could start on the new track early next year.

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