Trainers call for Towcester to be saved as Betfred emerge as possible buyers
Seamus Mullins, chairman of the National Trainers Federation's National Hunt Committee, launched a passionate plea on Friday for Towcester to be saved.
His words coincided with news that Betfred could be interested in acquiring the venue, which made headlines on Thursday when it emerged that Towcester Racecourse Company Limited was to enter administration.
The track, which also stages greyhound racing, including the sport’s premier event, the Star Sports Derby, has three horseracing fixtures remaining in 2018, in October, November and December.
Mullins, who has enjoyed regular Towcester success over the years and is one of the course's biggest supporters, said: “It’s sad to lose any jumps course. We have lost Folkestone only recently. Fortunately Hereford came back after closure.
“Towcester is a unique track, and I echo all that Nicky Henderson said in today’s Racing Post. I have a horse in training at present who needs to go right-handed and I was banking on Towcester.
“It brings out the best in proper, old-fashioned National Hunt stock – be it over two miles or three miles – and clerk of the course Robert Bellamy has always done a wonderful job with the ground.
“There is always a great atmosphere there, and racing simply can’t afford to lose a local track like this. Racing is not all about Cheltenham and Aintree – the Towcesters of this world are of huge importance too.”
He added: “It’s vital that somebody comes in and saves it. They will definitely get the full support of National Hunt trainers from north, south, east and west. That’s one of Towcester’s biggest attributes – it’s very central and everybody can get to it.”
Fergal O’Brien, another huge fan of Towcester, said: “It’s a lovely track, with some great people there.
“Lord Hesketh put a lot of his own money into the operation, and Robert Bellamy was always very honest about the ground.
“It’s a good, honest, jumping track, and would be a huge loss to racing. It was a great shock to lose Hereford, but that came back – let’s hope Towcester does too.”
Betfred, who own Chelmsford, will be viewed as one of several potential purchasers of Towcester.
Phil Siers, managing director of Totepool at Betfred, said: “We’re waiting to see how it all pans out at Towcester.
“It’s always in our interests to expand the business, but a lot will depend on the price and what’s available for us. Circumstances will dictate what happens.”
Arena Racing Company has already offered its support to Towcester's management and the administrators, and would be widely regarded as front-runners in terms of potential suitors, while it is not inconceivable an independent racecourse may be interested.
Julian Thick, chief executive at Newbury, said: “It’s too early to understand the finer details surrounding Towcester and it is not currently part of our thinking, being in the middle of a major redevelopment here. However, we will monitor the situation.”
As well as staging horseracing and greyhound racing, Towcester is one of the major corporate venues in Northamptonshire and its function rooms have played host to many events over the years, including weddings.
Local racing enthusiast Bob Welsh plans to marry his partner Donna Mills on Towcester’s December 20 raceday, but Thursday’s bombshell has left them in the dark about whether it can still take place at the track.
“We’re both horseracing lovers and live local to Towcester,” said Welsh. “We both love the place and have booked to get married there on December 20. According to TripAdvisor it’s the best wedding venue in Northamptonshire.
“We’ve hired out the race stand to have the ceremony in the morning, and then the reception during the meeting and into the evening."
He added: “All I know is that Towcester sent all their staff home on Thursday, and they're not answering my emails. We’re totally in the dark about whether the wedding can still take place at Towcester. We just want some news.”
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com