Kempton Park set to be bulldozed for housing
Racecourse will have fixtures moved to Sandown and all-weather track at Newmarket
Kempton, home of the King George VI Chase, could be redeveloped for housing as part of a 10-year plan announced by its owners the Jockey Club. Photo: John Walton/PA Wire
Kempton Park racecourse in south-west London, the home of the King George VI Chase on St Stephen’s Day, will be bulldozed for housing and its fixtures will be moved to Sandown Park and a new all-weather track in Newmarket as a result of plans unveiled by Jockey Club Racecourses, the track’s owner, on Tuesday morning.
The scheme to close Kempton in order to invest the money elsewhere in the JCR portfolio of tracks is certain to prove hugely controversial among racing fans, who cherish the sport’s heritage and the variety of racecourses that Britain can offer.
The King George meeting on Stephen’s Day is one of racing’s most traditional fixtures and the big race itself has been won by many of steeplechasing’s greatest performers, including Arkle, who ran for the last time in the 1966 King George, the four-times winner Desert Orchid and Kauto Star, who won the King George a record five times in six years between 2006 and 2001.
The JCR plans envisage a total investment of half a billion pounds in its racecourses over the next 10 years, underpinned by the sale of Kempton Park for redevelopment with up to 3,000 houses. Racing at Kempton is expected to continue until at least 2021, during which time a new all-weather track at Newmarket will be built to take over Kempton’s extensive programme of all-weather racing.
Sandown Park is also expected to receive significant investment, which JCR believes will “unlock its potential as London’s Class One dual-code racecourse on the doorstep of millions of people”.
Announcing the plans on Tuesday, Roger Weatherby, the senior steward of the Jockey Club, said that the Club “must show leadership with the assets we have and, where merited, take tough decisions to help our sport to keep moving forwards.
“The decision to submit our estate at Kempton Park for consider in the [council’s]Local Plan [for hoursing]is unique and has not been taken lightly. Our board of stewards are horsemen and, having carefully considered what we can achieve in the long run from doing so, are unanimously of the view that British racing is better served by us doing so.”
Weatherby added: “If changes take place at Kempton Park in the future, we will act to secure and invest in the jumps programme nationally.
“A new purpose-built all-weather course on The Links at Newmarket to replace that at Kempton Park would be ideal for the thousands of horses trained at the home of racing and beyond, as well as shortening the working day for racing’s people there.”