Could racing return to Great Leighs by 2013?

  • The abandoned Essex racecourse Great Leighs has a potential new buyer – and racing could return by 2013.

    Last week it emerged that MC Racecourses Ltd, part of the Martin Collins Enterprises arena and racetrack surfaces group, is a potential buyer.

    At an Essex County Council meeting on 23 September, a solicitor representing Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), David Dagg, told councillors: “The potential owner, MC Racecourses Ltd, has already been in negotiations with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and hopes to be running [racing at] Great Leighs again within two years.”

    RBS subsidiary West Register bought Great Leighs from the adminstrator last year.

    MC Enterprises managing director Mark Nicole told H&H: “We are not at liberty to discuss the situation at present.”

    The BHA also declined to say more.

    Prospects for a return to racing at Great Leighs were raised in May when MC Enterprises brought six horses and four Newmarket trainers to test the surface that had lain fallow since January 2009.

    Speaking then, company boss Martin Collins said: “The surface is in good order. I expect that only fine-tuning will be needed after today.”

    The Martin Collins group has set up two companies this year – MC Racecourses Ltd in March and MC Racetracks Ltd in September.

    The all-weather track near Chelmsford, Britain’s first new course for 81 years, opened with great fanfare in April 2008 but within nine months had closed.

    Concerns prompted the BHA to suspend racing at the course and on 16 January 2009 owner The Essex Showground Group went into administration, owing £24.7m.

    MC Enterprises was not fully paid for the Polytrak it laid at the course – estimated to have cost around £5m.

    This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (13 October, 2011)

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