Great Leighs: new owners hope to rename stricken course Chelmsford CityPICTURE: Mark Cranham
Done acquires racecourse at Great Leighs
BETFRED owner Fred Done is at the heart of a new attempt to resurrect the racecourse at Great Leighs.
Done, along with SIS and Bet Solutions International, the parent company of the course's betting partner Betsi Ltd, has formed a company that has taken on the Essex track.
The new owners, who hope to rename the course Chelmsford City Racecourse subject to permission, expect to be ready in time to enter the BHA's fixture application process for 2015 in the new year.
There is no grandstand at the track but planning permission in place, while the Polytrack surface is said to be in extremely good condition.
The new owners plan to offer at least £42,000 in prize-money per fixture, with some meetings offering more.
Betfred's director of racing Joe Scanlon has been appointed as racecourse chairman. He said: “I’m delighted that a new joint venture company has acquired the assets of Great Leighs and I look forward to working with our partners.
“The track is ideally placed for Newmarket’s training centre, while the surrounding area has a total catchment in excess of three million people.
“This is an exciting challenge and represents a significant investment. Working closely with the BHA we intend to deliver a high class programme of racing which can only be to the benefit of everyone involved in our wonderful sport.”
The news is the latest twist in the remarkable story of Great Leighs which became Britain's first new racecourse for 81 years when it opened in April 2008 but closed in January 2009 after it was announced the companies owning the racecourse had been put into administration.
The track has remained closed ever since despite the efforts of previous owners MC Racetracks, who had two subsequent applications for fixtures declined by the BHA.
MC Racetracks is no longer involved and the new owners said that neither is the course's founder and former owner John Holmes, who was last week arrested along with his partner Jill Turner and a second man over allegations of involvement in a £2.4 million VAT fraud.
All three have been released and bailed to report to their local police station on March 5 and 6 next year. They have not been charged and they deny the allegations.