Chelmsford turf track gets thumbs-up but may not be used until 2020
Chelmsford has been given approval for turf racing to take place with the track ramping up construction of the mile course, although strict criteria outlined by the BHA means there could be no racing on the surface until 2020.
After initially turning down the project in March, the BHA changed its decision following a board meeting last month having received additional information from the track and had it inspected by various stakeholders.
Excavations are under way to get the base in place for the grass course, which will run inside the existing all-weather track, before the turf is laid in August. However, officials are expecting the wait to go on before racing can actually take place.
Andy Waitt, clerk of the course at Chelmsford, said: "We're on with the ground works for the turf track at the moment and the drainage is to go in next week. Hopefully all will be finished by the end of July or the beginning of August when the turf is to be laid.
"Hopefully the turf will settle in but the emphasis is there is no rush. If we have a good year we could race on it by the end of 2019, otherwise we'll wait until the following year."
As for the characteristics of the track, which will be the first floodlit grass venue in Europe, he said: "There will be no seven-furlong start to begin with because if there was it would be on a bend although we could add a chute later."
The BHA on Wednesday outlined the conditions under which racing on the turf could take place at Chelmsford, adding the course had been assigned only all-weather meetings for 2019.
The statement said: "Due to the track design and restricted number of race starts, other than in exceptional circumstances, and at the discretion of the BHA, no more than three turf races will be programmed on any BHA fixture allocated to the racecourse, with all other races on the card to take place on the all-weather.
"Chelmsford is strongly encouraged to adopt the same limit on the number of turf races at racecourse fixtures. The limit of three races could be reduced further in the event that, ultimately, the safety factor [maximum number of runners allowed] at any of their planned race starts is less than ten."
It added: "At this stage no turf races will be approved to take place in 2019 and all fixtures will be allocated to take place on the all-weather. This will be revisited once further progress has been made on the construction of the turf track with a decision on the timing of the first turf races not required until the details of the races at each fixture are published in the programme book."
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