Britain’s first new racecourse in 81 years is finally under starter’s orders.

Following an inspection at 9am today, Friday 18 April, Great Leighs has been given the go-ahead to hold its first race meeting this Sunday, 20 April.

Paul Struthers from the British Horseracing Authority said: “Great Leighs has passed this morning’s inspection and declarations for Sunday’s fixture will therefore be accepted.

“Minor preparatory work will continue today and tomorrow. However, barring unforeseen circumstances, racing at Great Leighs on Sunday goes ahead.”

Great Leighs spokesman Pippa Cuckson added: “We are very pleased indeed — it’s been a long time coming. It was touch and go as to whether the BHA would pass us in time for the first meeting. We are relieved and excited about making history.”

The Essex-based track was due to open in October 2006 but has since suffered a series of postponements for reasons including building problems and bad weather.

The meeting on Sunday is for invited guests only — the first race meeting open to the public will be on 28/29 May.