£1m ready to rescue Hereford

Venetia Williams has emerged as a key figure in a consortium that hopes to bring racing back to Hereford in 2014. The group has already brought together £1m that it says it is ready to put in to running the racecourse if that becomes possible. Bob Davies and Willie Jenks, clerk of the course and chairman at neighbouring Ludlow, are also on board.

Any decision on that is a long way off; not least because it is far from clear what the long-term intention of the Reuben brothers and Northern Racing are with regard to its lease on the track. Whilst that may become clearer after a meeting on 7 September between the owners of the racecourse, Herefordshire County Council, and Northern Racing, it could be as late as June next year. That’s the date when Northern Racing would have to serve notice that it intends to give up the lease on 31 December 2013.

John Williams, former clerk of the course at Hereford is heading up the consortium. He told the Hereford Times that the group was “ready, willing, able and knows what it’s doing.” Although they can’t make any formal move whilst Northern Racing still hold the lease, Williams claimed that informal talks with the British Horseracing Authority indicated that racing’s governors would be sympathetic to giving a new group up to 12 meetings the year after next.

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A statement from the BHA played a dead straight bat, and certainly did not lend any weight to Williams’ claim and confirmed that Northern Racing were entitled to re-allocate Hereford’s 2013 meetings to its other tracks.

The statement read, “"We note that talks will be held next month between the Council and Northern Racing / Arena. However, in the meantime, the BHA will respect the intention of Northern Racing / Arena to re-allocate Hereford's fixtures to other racecourses within their ownership group, as we understand they are entitled to do under the terms of the lease. We are aware that there has been some suggestion of local individuals or groups forming consortia in a bid to secure the future of Hereford Racecourse. If a viable business proposal is put together then the BHA would provide guidance in terms of what the criteria are in order to receive a racecourse licence and fixtures.”

Williams was positive a solution would be found to enable racing to continue in the town, and suggested there could be some benefits to a blank year if the group could take over the track at the end of this year. He said, “I don’t see it as the biggest tragedy if Northern Racing gives it (the lease) up at the end of this year, as it may well do, because it will allow 12 months to do a bit of refurbishment and to start afresh would be a good thing from a promotional point of view.”

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