The immediate future of Kempton Park Racecourse looks all but secured after the Jockey Club on Wednesday revealed it had submitted a scaled-down housing development project.
In January 2017, The Jockey Club announced plans to demolish the entire racecourse and build 3,000 homes on the site, much to the dismay of the racing community.
However, those plans met with widespread condemnation from opponents that included the council, local residents and leading racing figures such as trainer Nicky Henderson and owner JP McManus.
Henderson, who trains horses for The Queen, pulled no punches in his dismay at the initial plans, saying: “When it comes down to it, Kempton is a track National Hunt racing cannot afford to lose and I fear it will be a nail in the National Hunt coffin.”
However, The Jockey Club has now been forced to downscale their proposals and the new plans will “involve only previously developed land and would retain all racing facilities.”
An independently-assessed need for the development of more than 15,000 homes in the Spelthorne Borough community was the basis on which the initial proposals were made, and The Jockey Club had forecast that the sale of racecourse land would raise at least £100 million for British racing at a time when it is in need of major funding in order to grow and improve its long-term prospects.
Sandy Dudgeon, Senior Steward of The Jockey Club, said: “We have respected the position of Spelthorne Borough Council throughout their Local Plan process with relation to Kempton Park.
“Having weighed up the latest information, we have now put forward another option alongside the original full site for their consideration. This would involve just a proportion of the available land there and allow Jump and All-Weather Flat racing to continue.
“A healthy, sustainable and well-funded sport for the long-term can only be achieved by investing in our sport. The need for British Racing to raise significant funding to enable this is perhaps even more vital now than when our original proposals were announced.”
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Henderson Elated At Kempton News
A delighted Nicky Henderson voiced his relief at the news on his Unibet blog on Wednesday afternoon, saying: “I am absolutely delighted to hear that plans to develop housing on Kempton’s racetrack have been downsized and that horse racing, as it should be, is set to continue for the foreseeable future.
“Kempton has been, and will remain, one of my favourite tracks in the country because it is such a unique course and the ground is always very good and well maintained.
“To be fair it’s been a very wet winter and the likes of Sandown and Ascot, which are just down the road, have done well to stage racing but Kempton copes with it so much better which is why I was a very strong advocate that racing should continue there as we all badly need it for racing’s sake, not to mention from a financial point of view for Jockey Club Racecourses, so this is really great news.”
Initial plans involved moving Kempton’s premier race – the King George VI Chase to fellow JCR-owned Sandown, and the building of a new all-weather course in near Newmarket, Flat Racing’s headquarters.
Meanwhile, William Hill have confirmed that sponsorship of Britain’s oldest classic, the St. Leger, will not be renewed after their three-year deal came to an end in 2019.
A spokesman for the bookmaker said: “We have thoroughly enjoyed the sponsorship of the St Leger and have had a wonderful few years at Doncaster.
“Sadly, all good things come to an end and we leave wishing Arc well and with every confidence that they will find a new sponsor.”
Arena Racing Company, owners of Doncaster Racecourse, will begin their search for a new sponsor immediately.