Pointing in East Anglia has been dealt a further blow as organisers of Marks Tey confirmed the future of the Essex track is under threat.
This follows last month’s news that Horseheath racecourse in Cambridgeshire was to cancel all 2014 fixtures, after the surface was deemed unsafe to race on due to the prolonged wet weather.
Horseheath’s clerk of the course John Sharp said it was one of the “most disappointing days” of his racing life.
Now Marks Tey, near Colchester, could only stage 2 more meetings — 23 February and 16 March — unless the crowds attracted are large enough to show the venue has a viable future.
Marks Tey has held fixtures for over 60 years, but costs nearly £15,000 per year to run.
It used to attract massive crowds on Easter Monday, but 3 years of dry spring weather meant the 2011 event staged just 3 races and 3 walkovers, and the Easter event hasn’t been held since.
Last June a “Marks Tey Fighting Fund” was set up.
“We hope that money raised so far will secure the future for the next two seasons,” said chairman Stephen March.
“But this year we need to see the crowds return to allow us to move one meeting back to Easter Monday in 2015. This should ensure the financial viability of racing here.”
James Crispe, a regular commentator at East Anglia points, said it is “easy to be gloomy” but that fans shouldn’t be despondent.
“There’s been a lot of bad news recently, and there were 20 fixtures four years ago [in East Anglia] and now we’re down to 14. But those we have will attract more runners and boast quality cards,” he said.
Last week a new fixture was confirmed. The 3 hunts — Thurlow, Cambridgeshire with Enfield Chace and Puckeridge — who stage Horseheath fixtures will host a joint event at High Easter on 22 March.
This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (6 February, 2014)