Kempton Park looks set to be sold for housing, The Jockey Club has revealed in a shock announcement today (10 January).
The Jockey Club is submitting the racecourse to the Borough of Spelthorne for “redevelopment consideration” following the council’s “call for sites” on which to build 15,140 homes.
Racing is expected to continue at Kempton until at least 2021, with Sandown Park taking over hosting the King George VI when the time comes.
If planning is given the green light, The Jockey Club is hoping to secure “in excess of” £100 million for investment in British racing. The organisation has also revealed its plans to invest more than £500 million into the sport over the next 10 years.
“The Jockey Club is governed by Royal Charter to act for the long-term good of British Racing,” said Roger Weatherby, senior steward of The Jockey Club.
“The decision to submit our estate at Kempton Park for consideration in the local plan is unique and has not been taken lightly.
“Our board of stewards are horsemen and, having carefully considered what we can achieve in the long-run from doing so, are unanimously of the view that British racing is better served by us doing so.
“Horsemen and customers alike will enjoy the benefit of numerous projects nationwide that result from the record investment proposals we unveil today, which include investments at each of our racecourses and training grounds throughout the country.”
How will the money be spent?
The investments include plans to “transform” Sandown by investing in its facilities, track and race programme.
A new floodlit all-weather racecourse is also on the cards for Newmarket, to replace Kempton’s all-weather fixtures. Kempton’s jump fixtures will be split between other racecourses across the country.
A boost for prize money and investment in both equine and human welfare has also been pledged.
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“A new purpose-built all-weather course on The Links in Newmarket to replace that at Kempton Park would be ideal for the thousands of horses trained at the home of racing and beyond, as well as shortening the working day for racing’s people there,” added Mr Weatherby.
“I am also particularly pleased that The Jockey Club will be even better placed in the coming years to provide further support to important causes, such as racing’s welfare and education programmes.
“As ever our intention is for our sport to benefit to the greatest extent possible.”
British Horseracing Authority’s reaction
Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said it “acknowledges and understands” the reasons behind the decision.
“The BHA will work with The Jockey Club in the development of their plans, to ensure that the long-term interests of the sport — and its grassroots — are best served in the coming years, with a particular focus on safeguarding the future health of jump racing,” he said.
Mr Rust added the proposal for the Newmarket all-weather track would need to go through the usual process for the addition of new racecourses.
This includes submitting an application for approval by the BHA board and ensuring the course meets all necessary licensing criteria.