Great Leighs rejoins the all weather race

Great Leighs - deserted and desolate

Great Leighs - deserted and desolate

Racing at Great Leighs was a short-lived affair, a matter of barely nine months. Any hopes of a resumption there faded still further when owner John Holmes was named to be at the heart of a VAT fraud a couple of weeks ago. How quickly things can change.

Yesterday it emerged that Betfred supreme Fred Done, Satellite Information Services and Bet Solutions have joined forces to buy the Essex track, operating under the name of Tote Media Limited. They propose to apply for fixtures in 2015, but will have to be quick to do so, as bids have to be with the BHA by the end of January.

The course will be renamed Chelmsford City Racecourse. As much as anything that’s probably to disassociate the course from the bad vibes that surround the name of Great Leighs and to try and create a brand new start. Joe Scanlon, Betfred’s director of racing, who will also be racecourse chairman, was upbeat about the prospects, saying, “The track is ideally placed for Newmarket’s training centre whilst the surrounding area has a total catchment in excess of three million people. We expect to run a regular, high quality self-funded racing programme.”

There have to be questions as to what the appetite is for a near doubling of the number of all weather tracks in the next few years, and whether there will be a sufficiently large number of horses to run on the various all weather surfaces. Tote Media may well submit an application to start racing in 2015, but that does not mean they will gain approval. A key factor will be the outcome of an independent report that Deloitte is currently preparing for the BHA. That is due for presentation by the end of March, and its findings will be of crucial importance to not just to this proposal, but also to the recently announced plans to dig up the turf courses at Catterick and Newcastle and replace them with an all weather surface.

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