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The return of British racing

4 January 2008

ENGLAND -- As reported by the Belfast Telegraph: "A former agricultural showground in the north Essex countryside will, within eight weeks, echo to the cheers of punters, the groans of bookies and the thunder of thoroughbreds' hooves when it opens for business as Britain's first new racecourse in 80 years.

"After a tortuous five-year process, involving a planning wrangle which ended up in court and multiple redesigns, the £40m Great Leighs Racecourse, near Chelmsford, is expected to hold the first race on its purpose-built, floodlit track with adjoining stables and training facilities by the end of February.

"In so doing, it will usher in what horseracing's promoters claim is a renaissance in British racecourses. At least two further new venues are under development and spending to improve existing facilities is predicted to reach £300m over the next five years.

"The £3bn-a-year sport of kings is also proving more popular with the hoi polloi. Attendances at racecourses have risen from around 4.8 million in 2001 to more than six million as events such as evening racing attract new crowds.

"...It is this wave of interest – and affluence – that John Holmes, the businessman behind the Great Leighs course, who made his name as a showjumping impresario, believes will make his own gamble to build a racetrack in the heartland of Essex Man a success.

"...The arrival of the new venue is at the vanguard of a succession of racecourse developments as towns seek to boost income by adding ever more luxurious leisure facilities to their outskirts.

"...Research by Deloitte, the financial consultants, found that only football has exceeded racing in the amount of money being put into new facilities, with £420m spent in 2002-06 and £300m more forecast up to 2012..."

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