Shutting track best for jumps racing in long term, says chairman
The chairman of Kempton racecourse yesterday said he would be sad to see the track close but argued the financial benefits from developing the site for housing were too great to ignore.
Nick Mustoe, who is also a jumps owner, said he had previously hoped the racecourse could continue operating while only the parts of the site not used for racing were built on, but now accepted that planning approval was more likely to be achieved if the whole 230-acre area was put forward.
The Jockey Club's announcement that the home of the King George VI Chase would be flattened to make way for 3,000 new homes, from which at least £100 million would be raised to help support a £500m investment in racing through the creation of a new all-weather track in Newmarket and major upgrade at Sandown, has divided opinion in racing.
Trainer Gary Moore joined the debate the yesterday labelling the decision "an absolute disgrace". "Yes, of all the tracks in Britain, it's the one where I send the most runners, but that's for a reason," he said in his Betway blog. "It's a great and fair track for both Flat and National Hunt – it would be a huge blow if it was lost."
'We'll all kind of miss it'
But Mustoe said: "I'm a big fan of National Hunt racing. I have a band of horses with Emma Lavelle and I have to say yes we'll all kind of miss it because it does add an extra dimension and, speaking personally as chairman for ten years, I find it sad.
"But I am capable of seeing the bigger picture and seeing that the Jockey Club would do good things with that money.
"If that money is going to be used for the benefit of racing – and there are lot of issues over funding and prize-money and the fact we can't get enough owners because there is very little return – then maybe there is a better strategy going forward if we give up one course and it funds a lot of other things.
"It will be something the Jockey Club hasn't lightly come to. As a member as well, I know the quality of debate and feelings in the Jockey Club. They are not people who would be cavalier about this. If there's a lot of good that can be done you have to offset that against the bad of losing one course."
He added: "It's a good debate. It's a debate that's been had in the Jockey Club and they've come down in favour of thinking that the greater good is best served by closing and taking the money if that option is available."