Plans are afoot for racing to return to Manchester in a scheme that could reinstate the area as a major force in the racing industry, as well as establishing an eventing fixture of international stature.
Although the proposal has yet to be submitted to Salford City Council, plans involve a 1,700-acre country park in a greenbelt area near Worsley, Manchester. Peel Holdings, who own the land, intend to bring all-weather racing to the North of England, with a turf track running alongside the state-of-the-art floodlit all-weather surface.
The idea is to hold approximately 30 days racing annually at the New Manchester Racecourse, including one major meeting that could herald the return of the once prestigious Manchester Gold Cup.
Phil Rothwell of Peel Holdings told HHO: What we envisage is one really significant race, like the Manchester Gold Cup. Weve been offered the Gold Cup, but its a little beyond our budget at this stage. Well probably get a local star as title sponsor for this major race, which will be part of a three-day meeting.
The last race held at Manchester was on the 7 November 1963 at the Castle Irwell course, which was subsequently transformed into a residential complex for students. Ex-jockey Willie Carson was among those who were delighted by the prospect of racings return to Manchester.
The plans for Manchester racecourse will be a great boost for racing. It will add tremendously to this regions great horse racing tradition and will attract an international flavour, he says.
An international event course is also on the cards, and it is by no means that first time that racing and eventing have been combined in this way. Lucinda Green was present when plans were unveiled this week, and was very positive about the proposals.
“Peels plans for eventing will offer superb facilities and bring international competition, which is much in demand here in the North West,” she explains. British eventers are aiming for Olympic team gold this year, and Salford Forest Park could play a vital role in developing our future Olympians.
British Eventing have been in talks with Peel Holdings about the site, and are equally optimistic about the prospect of a permanent cross-country course, and multi-use equestrian centre, but Northern representative Colin Furness stressed that it wasnt on the British Eventing calendar quite yet.
I am really pleased that plans are moving forward. If it works out, it is a very sensible idea. But all things considered, will take some time to go through the planning stages. I am looking forward to the project being finalised and accepted by the council, he says.
The bold plans still have a few hurdles to be overcome. The land is in a greenbelt area, making it more complicated to get planning permission than under normal circumstances. Local residents are also expected to raise objections, in particular with regards to congestion and conservation in the area.
Once the planning and development stages are completed, Peel Holdings will have to apply to both British Eventing and the British Horse Racing Board for approval to hold eventing competitions and racing, respectively.
BHB Communications Executive Will Lambe says: “We have met with Peel Holdings and they have made their intentions regarding Salford Forest Park clear to us. We now await a formal application, which will go to our New Racecourses Committee and then to the board for consideration.”