Great Leighs 'angry' after BHA fixture rejection

The owners of Great Leighs have said they are "angry and disappointed" at being denied racing fixtures for the second successive year.

The British Horseracing Authority rejected MC Racetracks Limited's application to host cards at the flat course near Chelmsford in 2014.

"I'm very disappointed," the company's chairman Keith Brown told BBC Essex.

"To say I am disappointed and angry about the decision is a huge understatement."

Great Leighs timeline

  • April 2008: Becomes first new course in Britain in 81 years when hosting opening meeting
  • January 2009: Course goes into administration and has racing licence revoked
  • 2009: A deal with a potential new owner falls through when the course fails to secure a new licence
  • June 2010: Administrators admit the course could be redeveloped
  • November 2011: MC Racetracks buys the course
  • May 2012: New owners fail in bid for licence
  • June 2013: New application is rejected

The Essex all-weather course, which was the first new racing venue in the UK for 81 years when it opened in April 2008, also had an application to host fixtures in 2013 rejected 12 months ago.

It was initially open for less than a year, closing in January 2009 when the course went into administration and had its racing licence revoked.

New owners were not found until November 2011, when MC Racetracks came in with the hope of holding 35 to 45 races per year.

"We had put forward a very robust plan," added Brown, who is a former chairman of the Racecourse Association.

"We had the backing of other partners, the backing of the bank and various shareholders and still this did not seem to satisfy them. That's why we're particularly angry.

"We met their guidelines. The guidelines require you to have a first-class track, financial plans and the proper planning permissions. We had those.

"It's all about interpretations."

In a statement on Thursday, the BHA said the reasons for rejecting the application would "remain private".

Brown believes pressure from other race tracks could have contributed to the decision.

"It's inconvenient because there are a limited number of race meetings that can take place and had we been given fixtures it would have taken away from other race courses," he said.

"I would anticipate there would have been some lobbying and that's why we're annoyed."

The BHA has said it is unable to comment on the situation for legal reasons, but it is believed their decision is based more on concerns over the proposed business strategy put in place and the reputational risk racing the UK if Great Leighs were to fail again.

There are 58 active courses in the UK after Hereford and Folkestone both closed for financial reasons last year.

Ffos Las, in Carmarthenshire, became Britain's newest race track and first new National Hunt course in 80 years when it opened in 2009.