New racecourse wins major boost

A NEW racecourse in Essex is set to hit the ground running after industry chiefs promised it would be given preference over competitors for nine years after its launch.

A NEW racecourse in Essex is set to hit the ground running after industry chiefs promised it would be given preference over competitors for nine years after its launch.

The £40 million redevelopment at Great Leighs, on the former Essex Showground, has been guaranteed 16 "national" status meets per year by the British Horseracing Board (BHB).

The move is designed to give the course – the first new track in the UK since 1927 - a helping hand in becoming established as a nationally recognised racing venue.

Outgoing BHB chairman Peter Savill explained how Great Leighs would be given secure dates in the 2006 national racing calendar during the annual general meeting of the British Horseracing Board in London.


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The racecourse, which aims to be a "blueprint" for future developments, is due to open in 2006 and will receive preferred status until 2014.

After that date the new development – which features an all weather surface track - will be treated like an ordinary racecourse.

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As well as the 16 guaranteed race dates, Great Leighs will also be able to bid against existing racecourses for the several hundred new fixtures that are being created from 2006.

Its all-weather surface and spectator and hospitality facilities mean that the Essex course could stage high quality racing and entertainment all year round.

The modern one-mile oval configuration of the racing circuit will also allow Great Leighs to host trials for the world's richest races that happen on similar circuits overseas.

BHB chief executive Greg Nichols said: "We look forward to its world class track design and facilities, adding further diversity and reaping commercial reward when, as is planned, it becomes operational in January 2006."

Great Leighs owner and promoter John Holmes said: "We have always believed that the racecourse has an important part to play in the modernisation of British horseracing.

"I am very proud this initiative in happening in Essex.

"We have some exciting plans for various racing festivals and our guaranteed dates mean we can start formulating our calendar with confidence."

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