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Trainer Richard Lee prepared to lead consortium to save Hereford Racecourse
TRAINER Richard Lee is prepared to spearhead a consortium to save Hereford Racecourse.
The Byton-based former jockey is ‘absolutely shocked’ by the planned closure at the end of this year. He has called for a public inquiry into the matter and says the racecourse’s facilities are in ‘a good condition’.
“I don’t see why Arena Leisure and Northern Racing want to pull the plug now and not in 17 years time when the lease runs out,” said Lee.
“Everyone is in shock about it and we are feeling inadequate but we need to know what the full picture is. We need all the racecourses we can get.
“Hereford Racecourse is in a good condition.
Money has been spent updating stables, improving the stand and re-aligning the paddock.
“The weighing rooms are more than adequate.
I would like to see the council holding a public inquiry.
“Something has to be done between now and December.
“I would be more than willing to form a consortium to run it and put in money. If other people would be prepared to come on board with me I would like to speak to them.
“Racing has been in Hereford for 250 years and we don’t want to be the generation which loses it.”
Lease holders Arena Leisure and Northern Racing issued a public statement on Friday announcing their intentions to close Hereford Racecourse.
Managing director of the enlarged group, Tony Kelly, said attempts had been unsuccessful in extending the lease with land owners Herefordshire Council .
“Despite being unviable for several years, we have supported the racecourse but muchneeded investment, required to breathe new life into the racecourse cannot be justified in the absence of long-term future for the business.”
Kelly added: “The fixtures will be transferred to other racecourses in the group, where we will be able to offer increased prize money and better quality facilities for connections and racegoers.”
The former clerk and secretary of Hereford Racecourse, John Williams, said he had been inundated with calls since last week’s surprise announcement.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook and there’s discussions going on about forming a new company to run it. It would be terrible to lose Hereford Racecourse and there are some leading people in Herefordshire racing circles who are making efforts to maintain it.
“It probably won’t happen before the end of the year and there might not be racing in Hereford for 12 months.
“By January 2014, I would expect it will be all up-and-running and refurbished and in new hands.”
Williams said the race club at Ludlow would be an example to follow.
“Ludlow is a club owned by its members and profits stay within the racecourse company and are reinvested.
“It would need to be run for the benefit of Hereford Racecourse.”
“Hereford was a profitable course when I was there. You need a small team who are fully committed.”
Trainer Lee marked his debut as a jockey at Hereford Racecourse almost 50 years ago.
“I came third in a handicap hurdle with Cubhunting a long time ago,” he recalled.
“Hereford has been a very successful venue for us and it’s the ideal place for novices. The ground is always very well maintained.”
Grand National-winning trainer Venetia Williams says people in Herefordshire need to know the score.
“Just because the company doesn’t want to continue at Hereford for their own personal financial reasons, it would be very sad to lose Hereford races. I don’t think we have been told the full picture. I sincerely hope something can be done to do keep Hereford Racecourse going.”