Hereford racecourse: Owners ARC to reopen venue

Hereford racecourse
Racing at Hereford had been staged since 1771 until its closure at the end of 2012

Hereford racecourse - controversially closed by owners Arena Racing Company in December 2012 - is to reopen for business in October.

Four fixtures are to be staged in 2016, with more next year.

Hereford was shut in 2012 after 241 years of racing - the first recorded meeting there was in August 1771.

ARC director of external affairs Susannah Gill told BBC Sport the decision "shows our commitment to all racing".

Hereford race meetings in 2016
Thursday 6 October (transferred from Worcester)
Monday 31 October (transferred from Southwell)
Wednesday 23 November (transferred from Fontwell)
Monday 19 December (transferred from Lingfield)

When it closed Hereford, the company said the venue was no longer viable, citing the recession and the rise of internet betting on other sports.

It also said investing in the course was difficult because it only had a 17-year lease from Herefordshire Council.

Despite closing the course, ARC kept hold of the lease but has so far not been able to reach an agreement with the authority over it.

Gill said: "There's no deal over the lease with the local council yet, but we said to prove that we wanted to do business we are going to re-open the track.

"There will be four fixtures moved to Hereford from within the ARC group from October, and then we plan 12 more in 2017.

"Relations with the council were, as you can imagine, frosty for a while after Hereford closed, but we went to them last summer and said there's a new face at the top and we want to do business."

Analysis

BBC racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght

When ARC closed down Hereford and Folkestone, for which there are no re-opening plans, it was the first time any long-established track had been shut in over 30 years.

The Hereford decision was especially controversial as it followed a confusing dispute with the local authority over the lease, which ARC then refused to release.

This news, a notable boost to an area with a high number of trainers, comes as ARC's new management works to shake off its "nasty racecourse group" image gained at least partly because of the original closures.