British racing has received a seismic jolt with the Jockey Club Racecourses announcing Kempton, home of the historic King George VI Chase, could be closed for housing redevelopment.
The track’s owners, who operate 14 other racecourses in Great Britain, hope to invest STG500million ($A825 million) into the sport in a 10-year plan – with the end of National Hunt and Flat racing at Kempton its most radical proposal.
The Jockey Club said in a statement a request would be made to transfer the King George, and a clutch of other big Kempton races, to nearby Sandown.
And to fill the void left by the potential absence of a Flat track at Kempton, the Jockey Club’s land at The Links in Newmarket is the “front-running location” for a new floodlit all-weather circuit.
In partnership with housing contractor Redrow Homes, the Kempton estate has been submitted for consideration following to address unmet local housing needs.
The Jockey Club insists Kempton will only be closed down if the move generates in excess of STG100 million investment and that the proposed all-weather circuit at Newmarket is given the green light.
“The decision to submit our estate at Kempton Park for consideration in the local plan is unique and has not been taken lightly,” Jockey Club senior steward Roger Weatherby said.
“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.”
The King George VI Chase, staged each year on Boxing Day, is one of the great races in the jumps season.
Desert Orchid won the race four times before Kauto Star stunned the racing world with a fifth triumph in 2011. The two horses’ ashes are buried by their respective statutes at Kempton.
Sandown would be the chief beneficiary of the major investment, with plans in place to market it as “London’s premier dual-code racecourse”.
The developers say 3000 homes could be constructed on the site with work to begin in 2021 at the earliest under the proposal.