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Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Kempton is unique and irreplaceable says Dessie's owner

Richard Burridge with the statue of his jumps legend Desert Orchid at Kempton
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Desert Orchid's career would be very different if a racecourse like Kempton didn't exist. It has always struck me as a unique racecourse because it rewards brilliance, rather than being about stamina or punishing mistakes.

Sandown and Ascot are wonderful courses but Kempton, in terms of London, seemed to make up the third part and you can't replace Kempton with either Sandown or Ascot because they are completely different.

A flat, right-handed well-drained track like that has consistently produced the best performances of the year. The King George winner typically would rate higher than the Gold Cup winner and you do feel at Kempton that it really does reward the best horses – although that's easy for me to say because I have such strong personal connections and Dessie ran his first and last race there and it was a course that really suited him. It is a very fair track.

It is irreplaceable, especially where it is. You don't have to spend two hours in a traffic jam to get there or two hours in a traffic jam to get out. It's a kind of hub. It's an urban track and has an inclusive quality about it too. It's not tweedy. You feel very close to the action too. Perhaps for that reason it lacks the grandeur of other places, but it's a great place.

Selling Kempton to build an all-weather track in Newmarket doesn't seem a reasonable swap on any basis, although it's good for the professionals in Newmarket. I am not against change but if you sell Kempton you had better be clear you are getting something very major in return because you are losing something invaluable and irreplaceable.

Picture perfect: four-time King George winner Desert Orchid was a firm favourite with racegoers

I can't think of another track that it is like – Huntingdon and Wincanton possibly in terms of layout – but it is unique and the whole first half of the season is built around Kempton. You could move the King George to Sandown but it wouldn't be the same.

I am glad there is opposition to it because we certainly had some great times there and hope to continue to do so. It doesn't sound to me like a done deal. It just sounds like a terrible idea.

You can run an accountant's rule over anything and conclude you would be better off spending money on that but racing is not about that. It's about something completely different. You can't rationalise these things because they are great traditions. It's not about the past, but there is something completely unique about Kempton and if you lose it it's gone.

It does favour great horses and produces wonderful performances time and time again which stand up under close examination. I just can't think how you would ever replace that.

I drive past Teesside Park most days, which was a racecourse in the sixties and is now a leisure complex, cinema, car park, bowling alley and retail park. It's not quite the same thing. There are quite a lot of these knocking around, not so many Kemptons.

It does favour great horses and produces wonderful performances time and time again which stand up under close examination. I just can't think how you would ever replace that
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