All-weather track plans on back burner

LONG-RUNNING plans to hold year-round horse racing in Suffolk have been shelved indefinitely.Newmarket Racecourses has already ploughed around £250,000 into proposals for an all-weather track to run alongside the famous Rowley Mile course, and has won planning permission from Forest Heath District Council.

LONG-RUNNING plans to hold year-round horse racing in Suffolk have been shelved indefinitely.

Newmarket Racecourses has already ploughed around £250,000 into proposals for an all-weather track to run alongside the famous Rowley Mile course, and has won planning permission from Forest Heath District Council.

However, the scheme was put on hold last year when the British Horseracing Board (BHB), which draws up the fixtures list, allocated too few races to Newmarket for it to be financially viable.

At the time racecourse bosses said they would try again for the 2006 season, but it has since emerged that no bid has been put in for any races next year and it is not clear when this may happen.


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Newmarket managing director Lisa Hancock said last night there was still a “firm commitment” to bringing all-weather racing to Newmarket, but added that the Racecourse Holdings Trust, which owns the Suffolk courses and several others around the country, is concentrating on its plans for Kempton.

She said: “I wouldn't want to put a timescale on it, the priority obviously is with Kempton. There are still one or two planning matters to be resolved and we want to be ready to go when we the fixtures become available.

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“We have spent a lot of money on this and it's a really good scheme and there is growing support for all-weather racing in Newmarket.”

Mrs Hancock said that the popularity of Kempton, where floodlights are being installed to allow evening racing, could increase the profile of the sport which would ultimately benefit Newmarket.

Racecourse spokesman Alistair Haggis added: “The BHB does have a few more fixtures next year but not as many as had been expected and as Kempton has got the go-ahead for its plans, the Racecourse Holdings Trust has decided to focus on that.

“Basically we have gone on the back-burner for the time being but we remain very much committed to it.”

Mr Haggis said that betting laws were changing to allow bookmakers to operate longer hours which was seen as an incentive for evening racing by the BHB, and was more applicable to Kempton.

He said evening racing was not an option at Newmarket because permission would never be granted for floodlights on Newmarket Heath because of its conservation status.

He said: “We remain determined and keen to see the project completed, which could be two years, it could be three, but certainly in the next few years.”

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