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Monday 16th January: The recent announcement by Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) of the plan to sell off Kempton Park racecourse for housing development has provoked much discussion. Several prominent National Hunt trainers have described it in terms of treachery or disaster for the sport.
JCR have announced this closure as part of a fund-raising debt-reducing business measure to enable significant upgrades to other tracks, to improve prize money and to construct a floodlit all-weather track at Newmarket. No fixtures are being lost; just transferred. Kempton Park is a run-down, rather desolate place that comes alive on one day a year - Boxing Day - weather permitting. If you attend a Wednesday evening meeting, you will know most of the paltry crowd personally. This uproar concerning loss of amenity is based on a false premise - nobody goes there!
The decision to upgrade other better attended tracks is surely more sensible, as is the promise of an all-weather track at Newmarket. Whatever attendance the Newmarket all-weather attracts is almost irrelevant, although I would be fairly confident it would attract more than the current 300 homeless people that most Kempton fixtures bring through their turnstiles. The point is, Newmarket has a horse population in excess of 3000 that will not be needlessly transported around the M25. This must surely be better for the horses, staff and environment as well as reducing costs for owners.
In the end, Kempton is like a shop no-one frequents. It would seem that only when the closing down sale is publicised is any interest in the place stimulated.