Long-term project for floodlit horse racing on turf set to become a reality at Chelmsford

Chelmsford Cityjpeg

Chelmsford are set to become the first track to stage floodlit horse racing on the turf. Pic: Courtesy of Chelmsford City Racecourse.

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The realities of the first floodlit horse racing on turf in Britain moved a step closer after news that Chelmsford City racecourse intends to revamp their grass track for use from April 2019.

The initiative was reported in this column when first mooted in 2014, soon after the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) gave the Essex track 12 start-up fixtures on their all-weather track for 2015.

Chelmsford City racecourse is located on the site of the former Great Leighs racecourse near Chelmsford. Great Leighs was the first new racecourse in the UK for over 80 years when it opened in 2008, but went into administration the next year after just 44 meetings and was later sold.

The all-weather track surrounds a turf course that is to be revamped at a cost of £1.5million.

“We commissioned a feasibility study by a company called Professional Sportsturf Design and we have been working with them alongside the BHA on the specification and the overall design on how the track will look,” Chelmsford chairman Joe Scanlon said.

“What we intend to do over the winter is remove all the existing soil as it is unsuitable – drainage would then go in followed by new topsoil and then we would lay the turf.

“Once we start the work we are committed to finishing it. It is close to a £1.5 million project so we are not taking it on lightly.”

Managing director Phil Siers added that the turf to be laid at Chelmsford was being prepared at Newmarket and needs to be laid one year before it can be used as a racing surface.

“We are trying to get this operational for April 2019 which means we will have to get it laid for April 2018,” he said earlier this week.

Seirs’ words follow his comments in 2014 when the initiative was first suggested.

“We’ve got a turf track here, which not many people know, and it will come into play in due course,” Siers said five months before Chelmsford City staged their first all-weather fixture in January 2015.

“It would give us turf racing under floodlights which would be totally unique and something we are looking to develop,” he continued. “We are really determined to prove we can create a world class track [all-weather and grass] and I’m pretty confident we’ll do that.”