Newmarket, the headquarters of British flat racing, is well on the way to gaining a dirt (all-weather) track at one of the two racecourses in the town.
Planning consent has been granted by the local council and the intention is to be racing on the new track -- a 10-furlong straight one utilizing the Polytrack surface -- in January 2005.
Michael Prosser, Newmarket's clerk of the course, said: "The response from the council was extremely positive and next up is winning approval from the Jockey Club for our track design. If the response to that is positive, the final crucial stage will be to get an allocation of fixtures for 2005 from the British Horseracing Board. The fixture allocation process starts in April, so we are well ahead of schedule."
If fixtures are allocated, then the building of the new £6-million track at the Rowley Mill course, which also includes the construction of a combined members' enclosure entrance and racecourse offices, would start in early June.
It is hoped to race up to three times during the winter and racegoers will use the existing Rowley Mile grandstands.
Lisa Hancock, Newmarket's managing director, commented: "All-weather racing is a huge growth area which is predominantly betting-driven. Unlike our turf racing...we would not expect large crowds . Our forecasts are based on 500 to 1,000 spectators."
Newmarket's two racecourses -- the Rowley Mile and July courses –[ have been all turf to date but the town, which provides over 2,800 acres of training grounds serving 70 trainers and up to 3,000 horses, is well geared to training on dirt and all-weather surfaces. There are currently three dirt/all-weather courses in Britain.