Welcome to the News desk.
|Shock as Great Leighs loses licence to race and enters
| Chris Cook
The future of Great Leighs racecourse was plunged into doubt by rapid
developments yesterday as administrators were appointed at Britain's newest
track. Earlier, the sport's ruling body revealed that the course no longer had
a licence to stage race meetings.
A statement from Deloitte LLP, a business advisory firm, said it had
been appointed as administrator to the group of companies that own and operate
Great Leighs. "We will be assessing the position of the group in order to
determine the best outcome for its creditors," the statement continued. "We
will continue to work with existing management and key business partners to
continue to trade the business in the short term.
"We are currently in
discussions with the sport's regulatory body, the British Horseracing
Authority, in respect of securing the course's racing licence and ability to
continue to trade as a going concern while we investigate the opportunity of a
The BHA had earlier
shocked the sport by announcing that Great Leighs had lost its licence. All
racecourses must renew their licence on 1 January each year but the Essex track
was only allowed to continue operating under a series of temporary licences,
the latest of which expired at midnight on Thursday night.
had applied for another temporary licence at a hearing on Thursday but this was
declined. The BHA refused to elaborate on the reasons for that decision but it
is understood to have been motivated by concern about Great Leighs' ability to
meet its financial commitments. One supplier, whose relationship with the
course ended acrimoniously in November, claims to be owed a five-figure sum.
Whatever the track's future, Thursday's fixture has already been lost
and reassigned to Kempton. The next raceday at Great Leighs is scheduled
for the following Thursday, 29 January.
The news is a heavy blow to
John Holmes, the entrepreneur who has spent more than a decade and a
reported £30m in the attempt to realise his dream of a racecourse at the
former Essex county showground. However, the project appeared ill-starred from
the first, missing its original opening date, in October 2006, by 18 months due
to a series of hold-ups.
Attendance at its debut race meeting in April
was restricted to racing professionals and invitees. When the gates were
finally opened to the paying public the following month, there was
disappointment at the limited extent of facilities. In particular, there was
only a temporary grandstand, sited on the inside of the circuit, severely
limiting viewing for most races.
Holmes issued a brief statement,
referring to a "restructuring process" and claimed: "We are back at the BHA on
Monday with a view to resuming racing from 29 January." Those matters will now
be handled by Deloitte.
There were immediate expressions of concern
from trainers at Newmarket, who have benefited from the proximity of an
all-weather racetrack staging Flat racing through the winter. "There's nothing
wrong with the track but obviously the viewing facilities left a lot to be
desired," said Michael Jarvis.
"It wasn't quite the finished article
and everything was a bit premature but I think they've been very unfortunate to
be trying to get a racecourse up and running in the present climate."
"The track was always very fair but you had to look into the future to get
the rest of it," said fellow trainer Simon Callaghan. "It was a work in
progress regarding the stands and the facilities but I'm sure they would have
sorted that out in time."