Opportunity missed

Essex Chronicle

The owners of Great Leighs racetrack have seen their dreams of bringing horse racing to the course next year fall at the first fence.

The BHA has decided not to include Great Leighs in next year’s flat racing calendar and the owners must now reapply to start racing in 2014.

“We are disappointed that the BHA has turned down our application for inclusion in the 2013 fixture process,” said Great Leighs chairman Keith Brown, a former chairman of the Racecourse Association.


“While we satisfied the BHA on a number of issues, particularly our high quality racing surface, BHA need to be satisfied in other aspects of our application.  We intend to seek an early meeting with BHA to resolve the outstanding matters before making a new application so that racing can be resumed at Great Leighs at the earliest opportunity.”


Great Leighs was the first track to open in Britain for 81 years but only lasted a few months before going into administration in January 2009.  It is now under new ownership which has hoped to bring back racing by 2013.  Will Lambe, head of external affairs for the BHA, said: “We have informed those involved with the Great Leighs submission of the Boards concerns, and although we wont be discussing them publicly we have offered to provide the racecourse with some guidance as to how they might be addressed in any future applications.


“When it is appropriate, we have said they are welcome to submit an application to be part of the 2014 fixture list.”  The news delays a multimillion pound media deal Great Leighs has struck with betting broadcasters BETSI.  It would have provided prize money of £2.5million in the first year, boosting the areas local economy and putting Essex on the global betting map.


Owners MC Racetracks  Ltd (MCR) who will now reapply to start racing in 2014, said a green light from the BHA would have enabled them to re-establish the all weather track and beam live TV coverage across the world.  MCR’s chief executive Tony James said “The money is lost to British Racing  as it cannot be rolled over into 2014.  It’s a use it of lose it situation and the race horse owners will be the main losers in 2013.”

BETSI Managing Director, John Wright, a former director of Saatchi & Saatchi said “This deal was a rare opportunity not only for British Racing as a whole but for promoting Chelmsford City’s newly acquired status around the world.”


BETSI Director, Steve Shore who met the BHA together with Mr James, said:  “I understand that the BHA would have liked more information, but rather puzzled that they did not make further contact to get additional information which was offered and we had to hand.”


Racecourse builder and former owner John Holmes, now a consultant for BETSI successfully brokered the broadcasting deal between BETSI and MCR.  He said: “Newmarket trainers had given the course their blessing – little wonder as 75% of the additional £2.5million prize money would go straight up the M11 to Newmarket.”


Written by Steve Clow


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