Things are looking up for Great Leighs, Britain’s first new racecourse in 80 years.
After a series of postponements Great Leighs trials morning on Sunday (13 April) went without a hitch.
Pippa Cuckson, communications director of Great Leighs, told H&H: “We were delighted that the course lived up to our hopes and got such a unanimous thumbs-up from trainers and jockeys. We always felt that the configuration of the Polytrack would provide a superior all weather racing test.
“The key equine facilities were deemed to be second to none.
“It has been a hard journey. Seeing horses work on the track at last was quite an emotional moment for those of us who’ve been involved in the project since John Holmes conceived it eight years ago.”
Twenty horses belonging to seven top trainers — Ed Dunlop, John Berry, Robert Cowell, William Jarvis, Gay Kelleway, John Ryan and John Jenkins — took to the track.
The horses worked in groups of up to four at a time over five furlongs, six furlongs, one mile and one mile two furlongs, ridden by jockeys including Alan Munro, Richard Mullen and Hayley Turner.
The jockeys praised the new polytrack surface and the configuration of the new track — which is a standard left handed oval design with a two furlong straight and gentle bends.
Hayley Turner said: “It rode very well. I went from the mile start and led Richard Mullen, who reported a bit of kick back, but as with any new surface that will take a bit of time to bed in.
“We were there to make sure the track was safe and it certainly was.”
Trainer Ed Dunlop said: “I was very impressed with the racecourse. The jockeys who rode for me (Stephen Donohoe and Tom McLoughlin) were happy with the track.
“I was happy to bring the horses and glad I came. Great Leighs will be a huge asset.”
While Gay Kelleway added: “There hasn’t been a new racecourse in my lifetime so it gave me a real buzz to come here. It will take all-weather to a new level. It should go global; it’s built like an American track, and providing the prize-money is on offer, its going to attract a lot of interest from overseas, not just Britain and Ireland.
“It’s in a very good catchment area to attract new owners and syndicates, and I shall be keen to set up a satellite yard down here.”
The course, which was originally due to open its gates in October 2006, has suffered a series of setbacks (news 11 January 2007, news 15 March 2007, news 27 March 2008).
In February a British Horseracing Authority (BHA) inspector declared the course fit to open on Friday 4 April (news 28 February). But due to bad weather the date was once again postponed — to the 20 April.
Everything is on course for Sunday 20 April, which will be the first meeting for the Essex-based track under BHA rules. There will be a BHA visit on Thursday (17 April) and Great Leighs expect to get the go ahead for Sunday.
But the day is by invitation only and the first time the public can visit the new course is on the 28/29 May. For more information visit: www.greatleighs.com