Support for all weather racetrack

PLANS to build a £4 million all weather racetrack in Newmarket have been welcomed by the racing community.The one-mile, four-furlong course will run parallel to the famous Rowley Mile course.

PLANS to build a £4 million all weather racetrack in Newmarket have been welcomed by the racing community.

The one-mile, four-furlong course will run parallel to the famous Rowley Mile course.

Newmarket Racecourse's clerk of the course Michael Prosser said there would be a number of benefits to the ambitious scheme.

Mr Prosser said: "The benefits are quite substantial. It will allow us to be more flexible and introduce more fixtures in the spring and autumn if necessary.

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"Newmarket is in hibernation in the winter months to a large extent as the flat season has finished but this would be good for the town's economy from a job perspective."

More than 2,500 horses currently train in the town and Mr Prosser said the new surface could also be used to exercise the horses prior to racing.

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The idea of an all weather surface at Newmarket has been discussed before but Mr Prosser said expansion was quite restrictive because much of the area was designated as a site of special scientific interest by English Nature.

He added: "In an ideal world, we would have liked an oval course but this was not feasible. The reaction we have had from the trainers has been very positive, I think they can obviously see the benefits."

The managing director of the Jockey Club Estate, who own the land, welcomed the plans, which would make Newmarket only the fourth course in the country to benefit from all weather facilities.

Peter Amos said: "I believe it will be good for the town as owners in Newmarket currently race on other tracks during the winter and have to pay considerable costs to transport horses there.

"An all weather track will ensure owners make savings on transport while staff who are usually laid off in the winter now have a good chance of being retained.

"There will also inevitably be a good brush off for the town in terms of hotels and restaurants."

Newmarket would also be an ideal location for stalls trials, currently not held in this country but a feature of racing in other parts of the world.

The Racecourse Holdings Trust agreed on Tuesday to push ahead with plans to build the all weather circuit.

The trust's managing director Richard Johnston said: "We aim to play a role in helping to improve and upgrade all weather racing and any success we have will benefit the industry, for all our profits are reinvested in racing.

"An all weather surface at Newmarket will enable the courses to compete for extra fixtures."

David James, trust chairman, said: "We believe all weather racing is strategically important. Top class tracks at Kempton and Newmarket will enhance the quality of our overall racing offer and will help meet the needs of the racing and betting markets.

"This investment provides the potential to improve the quality of all weather racing."

It is hoped the new course will save the turf on the Rowley Mile course used by horses to canter on while more race fixtures and improved training facilities are also expected.

The racecourse will now begin a round of detailed consultation, including talks with English Nature, before submitting final plans.

A similar scheme is planned for Kempton costing £10 million with all weather racing replacing the current turf flat fixtures. Both tracks should be completed by 2005.

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