BHA stress importance of safeguarding jump racing after news of Kempton closure

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Kauto Star leads the field in the King George VI Chase in front of packed stands at Kempton Park. Pic: Courtesy of Kempton Park.

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BRITISH Horseracing Authority (BHA) chief executive Nick Rust highlighted the importance of safeguarding jump racing following the shock news of the intended closure of Kempton Park.

Kempton Park – London’s closest racecourse – is owned by The Jockey Club who today (Tuesday) revealed plans to close the historic track that stages national hunt and all-weather racing.

The Middlesex track’s annual showpiece is the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day whose exalted list of winners includes champions Desert Orchid and Kauto Star and was most recently won by current Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack.

The Jockey Club revealed they intend to submit its estate at Kempton Park for future redevelopment as housing. The initiative is part of a 10 year plan that would see the King George moved to Sandown Park and a new all-weather track built in the Newmarket area, with racing set to continue at Kempton until 2021.

“We acknowledge and understand the reasons behind the Jockey Club’s announcement earlier today,” Rust said on the BHA website.

“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.”

Rust’s comments follow a statement from Roger Weatherby, senior steward of The Jockey Club.

“The Jockey Club is governed by Royal Charter to act for the long-term good of British Racing,” Weatherby said. “One of the ways we want to live up to that is through a series of projects that offer benefits all around the country and collectively add up to us contributing more than half a billion pounds to the sport over the next decade from its grassroots to top level.

“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.

“Horsemen and customers alike will enjoy the benefit of numerous projects nationwide that result from the record investment proposals we unveil today, which include investments at each of our racecourses and training grounds throughout the country.”

Weatherby added:

“If changes take place at Kempton Park in the future we will act to secure and invest in the jumps programme nationally. 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. This would include Kempton Park’s programme being transferred to our jumps courses around the country and through investments at each track over the next decade – in all four of our regions, in the north, south west, east as well as London.

“A new purpose-built all-weather course on The Links in Newmarket to replace that at Kempton Park would be ideal for the thousands of horses trained at the Home of Racing and beyond, as well as shortening the working day for racing’s people there. I am also particularly pleased that The Jockey Club will be even better placed in the coming years to provide further support to important causes, such as racing’s welfare and education programmes. As ever our intention is for our sport to benefit to the greatest extent possible.”

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