The racing world was in shock yesterday when it was announced that Kempton Park Racecourse is going to be put up for sale.
In a press release billed as ‘Proposed half a billion pound investment in British Racing’, Jockey Club Racecourses confirmed its intention to put Kempton up for ‘future redevelopment consideration’. In other words, the home of the famous King George VI Chase could be bulldozed and turned into housing.
If the plans go through, Kempton Park could close in four years’ time, with racing set to continue there until at least 2021.
The sale could produce funds of around £100million, which would be used to reinvest back into racing. Proposals include major investment into nearby Sandown Park racecourse and a new floodlit all-weather track, potentially in Newmarket. Prize money would also be set to receive a boost if the sale goes through.
Kempton is best known for hosting the prestigious 32Red King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. The new proposal outlines plans to move this meeting to Sandown. But it will result in a very different race – with Kempton a much flatter, faster track.
Famous winners of the race include Arkle (1965), Desert Orchid (1986, 1988-1990), One Man (1995-6) and Kauto Star, who won the race a record five times (2006-9 and 2011).
While its flagship National Hunt meeting attracts huge crowds, Kempton’s all-weather midweek meetings have limited attendance. But the racecourse hosts more than 70 fixtures per year, and is said to be ‘highly profitable’.
A number of Kempton’s other Jumps fixtures would move to Sandown, with the others transferred to other National Hunt tracks around the country.
Trainers, jockeys, owners and racing fans reacted with dismay to the news.
“So disappointing to hear Kempton Park going to close. Sandown is so different to the test that Kempton offers,” wrote former jockey turned TV presenter Mick Fitzgerald, who won the King George in 1999 with See More Business.
Trainer Nicky Henderson wrote: “Kempton is a track NH racing cannot afford to lose. It’s that simple. Very sad news indeed.”