Year-round racing at Newmarket gets nod

TOP class horseracing is to take place all year round at the sport's traditional home after ambitious plans for an all-weather track were given the seal of approval.

TOP class horseracing is to take place all year round at the sport's traditional home after ambitious plans for an all-weather track were given the seal of approval.

Bosses at Newmarket's Rowley Mile course are hopeful the first meets on their new multi-million pound, specially-designed surface will take place this winter - should the British Horseracing Board include the Suffolk venue in its fixture list.

The go-ahead for the scheme, thought to cost in the region of £6m, was given last night by members of Forest Heath District Council's planning committee.

It is hoped the facility will allow at least two extra meetings will be held in Newmarket each week throughout the winter months, significantly extending the town's racing season - which currently runs between April and early November.

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The all-weather track will also bring Newmarket in line with its competitors at Lingfield Park, Wolverhampton and Southwell, which already boast such facilities.

The news has been welcomed by local community leaders, who say the course will boost the local economy by drawing extra custom to Suffolk throughout the year.

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"This is very good news for the town and I am hopeful and optimistic about it," said Robin Millar, Newmarket town mayor. "One of the key things which people need to realise is that this will encourage more trainers to hold horses in Newmarket when they have the ability to run all year round.

"This will serve to exaggerate an effect we have seen already, where the town becomes a magnet for the horseracing industry.

"We have found that visitor numbers are up and levels of interest in the sport are up as a result of globalisation. The attractiveness of Newmarket as an international year-round base for training has increased.

"This has terrific implications for the town, in terms of visitors and employment."

The all-weather track will run over a one mile and two furlong distance alongside the existing flat course at Hamilton Road. It will utilise facilities already in place at the Rowley Mile course, including the £16m Millennium Grandstand.

Community leaders say the all-weather track will add the icing to the cake for a town currently entering boom time - where £75m in investment has been attracted in the housing, leisure and retail sectors over the coming few years.

"Things work in Newmarket because it has a very specific and well-defined identity and appeal," added Mr Millar. "It stands out and offers something different.

"We have always known it is a great place to live and work, and it seems other people are taking a great interest as well now."

Michael Prosser, clerk to Newmarket Racecourse, said the all-weather track would help entice trainers and jockeys - who normally desert Suffolk in favour of Dubai during the winter months - to remain in the county throughout the year.

He added that the new facility would also be used as an exercise gallop.

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