The Jockey Club, British horse racing’s commercial arm, has unveiled a national programme of investments designed to benefit the industry as a whole.
It intends to contribute more than UK£500 million (US$608) to British racing over the next ten years. The investment plan will look to ameliorate conditions for horsemen and racegoers, while affording financial support for horse welfare and the education of racing’s workforce.
In addition, it will provide increased prize-money for races held at Jockey Club venues. The organisation stages many of British Racing’s blue riband races such as Cheltenham’s Timico Gold Cup, the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree, the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and Epsom’s Investec Derby.
In order raise some of the desired funding, however, the historic Kempton Park - home of the Grade One King George VI - has been submitted for consideration in Spelthorne Borough Council's ‘Local Plan’ as a site that could be redeveloped to help towards unmet local housing needs. If the development is approved, The Jockey Club ‘will be looking to ensure it generates in excess of £100 million (US$121 million) for investment in British racing’. Racing will continue at the Surrey course until at least 2021.
As a result, Sandown Park will receive major investment and host a select number of Kempton’s erstwhile fixtures, resulting in the Esher course becoming the region’s premier dual-code racecourse. Another consequence of the Kempton sale would be a purpose-built floodlit all-weather racecourse created within Jockey Club Racecourses, which is purported to be located in horse racing’s ‘HQ’, Newmarket.
“The Jockey Club is governed by Royal Charter to act for the long-term good of British Racing,” said Roger Weatherby, the senior steward of The Jockey Club. “We must show leadership with the assets we have and, where merited, take tough decisions to help our sport to keep moving forwards. The decision to submit our estate at Kempton Park for consideration in the Local Plan is unique and has not been taken lightly.
“Our Board of Stewards are horsemen and, having carefully considered what we can achieve in the long-run from doing so, are unanimously of the view that British racing is better served by us doing so.
“We will work with the British Horseracing Authority to seek to run some races, including the King George VI Chase, at Sandown Park. We plan to transform Sandown Park's facilities, utilise the latest advances in track technology and help bring a focus on it as London’s premier dual-code racecourse right on the doorstep of millions of people, unlocking what we see as its great potential. Furthermore we will look to boost jump racing from its grassroots to the top end in consultation with horsemen and the wider industry.”
Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), added: “We acknowledge and understand the reasons behind the Jockey Club’s announcement earlier today. The BHA will work with the Jockey Club in the development of their plans, to ensure that the long-term interests of the sport - and its grassroots - are best served in the coming years, with a particular focus on safeguarding the future health of jump racing. It is early days yet, but should Kempton close, its jump fixtures will remain as jump fixtures.
“The proposed Newmarket all-weather track would need to go through the usual processes for the addition of new racecourses, which includes the submission of an application for approval by the BHA Board, and ensuring that the course would meet all the necessary licensing criteria.”