Great Leighs Racecourse Loses License

Britain's newest racetrack on the market.

Britain's newest racecourse Great Leighs, which opened in April of 2008 , had its licence withdrawn by the British Horseracing Authority on Jan. 16 and later that day went into administration, the equivalent of a receivership.

Deloitte, the administrator, is seeking a buyer as well as investigating how to regain the license for the all-weather track which has a Polytrack surface and mainly races under floodlights. There are very few potential buyers, especially as facilities for customers are poor and unfinished even though the racing surface has drawn consistent praise.

The three major racecourse groupings in Britain -- Jockey Club Racecourses, Arena Leisure and Northern Racing -- are the likeliest potential buyers.

If the administrators manage to regain the track's licence to race, that would open up the market somewhat, but all of Britain's remaining 59 racecourses have been hit by the economic downturn.

Estimates of how much has been spent on Great Leighs, which is in the county of Essex not far from the main British racing center of Newmarket, vary wildly from £20 million to £90 million.

The man behind it -- businessman John Holmes -- who visited the Breeders' Cup World Championships last year and in 2007, had grand plans for his racecourse but there was trouble from the beginning.

Great Leighs, Britain's first new racecourse since 1927, opened nearly two years later than hoped for due mainly to building delays and with a temporary grandstand in the infield. Work has yet to start on a permanent grandstand. 

A Breeders' Cup trials fixture was successfully staged in September, but there have been problems in the background. The BHA refused an annual licence for 2009 due to concerns about the course's viability and declined to grant another temporary licence on Jan. 16.

Bookmaker Skybet offered 4-5 odds about Greats Leighs racing in April or ever staging racing again from that month, with 2-1 odds that racing is back at the Essex venue this month, 5-1 in February and 8-1 in March.