Sad news for British racing as Arena Leisure announces possible closure of Folkestone racecourse, one of the country’s smallest tracks

One of Britain’s smallest racecourse faces closure after its owners Arena Leisure expressed concerns over the financial viability of the Kent track.

Despite the ongoing pressures of climate, finance and fashion, British racing has managed to sustain 59 racecourses since 1981 when Stockton staged its final meeting.

Folkestone, one of the company’s six racecourses, would therefore be the first casualty for 20 years.

Ian Renton, Arena’s director of racing said: “Folkestone is our least profitable racecourse. It needs substantial investment. At present, there isn’t a suitable return to pay for the investment it needs.

“Our worry is that it is something of an Achilles heel. We wish to bring all our courses to a high standard, and Folkestone drags us back a bit,” he said.

Arena bought Folkestone for £3.25 million in 1998 – the year of its 100th anniversary. Since then, although work has been done to improve the racing surface, there has been very little investment in facilities and Arena officials quote an average of only 800 paying customers per meeting at the course. They say it needs around £2,000 to make financial sense.

Arena has outlined a five-year plan for Folkestone. Viable alternatives to closure include the application for planning permission to completely redevelop the course; building a new grandstand and leisure facilities.

Alan Delmonte, press officer of the British Horseracing Board said: “What concerns the BHB is where the 23 fixtures it holds will go. Folkestone is a dual-purposetrack which makes the issue more complicated as we have a policy of not reducing jumps fixtures.”

He also expressed sympathy for those racegoers who live close to Folkestone as there are no other racecourses in the area.

Trainer Josh Gifford said: “It is one of the nicest small tracks about and it would be a crime to close it.There always seems to be a good crowd there. The motorway link is super and it is a good course for novices. I’m against any jumps track closing.”