After a very sad couple of days in the racing village with the respective deaths of former jockey James Banks and trainer Robert Alner it was finally good to see some positive news with the announcement that Kempton Park is to remain open for the foreseeable future. When the news from JCR came that they planned to close the course down, revamp Sandown and build a new all-weather course at Newmarket, many people in the industry were appalled at what they were heading, myself included.
Kempton may not be as scenic as somewhere like Cheltenham or Goodwood but it’s a good, honest and friendly place which offers turf jumping and all weather flat all year round whether it be during the afternoon sunlight or under the floodlights in the winter.
To lose a venue like this would have been a real loss to the game and thankfully both JCR and the local council have seen sense to allow some house building which is very much needed but also to keep the King George Chase at its rightful home and along with its other big races such as the Christmas Hurdle, Pendil Novices’ Chase and the September Stakes, not to be moved about or to only exist as street names.
Racing has had its ups and downs regarding courses over recent years, in 2012 Folkestone and Hereford closed although thankfully Hereford is back but Folkestone looks like it sadly won’t, Chelmsford had a bit of time out and Towcester for the moment looks as though the canine athletes are coming back but horse racing isn’t although it is possible that Point to Points may be coming and who knows maybe Arabian racing might roll into the Northamptonshire venue.
So, I’m delighted that Boxing Day will be about Kempton Park and the King George VI Chase, I’ve nothing against Sandown at all, it’s a top-class venue but the race belongs to Kempton and to see it somewhere else would be wrong. For once it’s time to raise a glass, unless you’re into a slightly extended Dry January in which case a cup will do and toast to something positive for the sport happening.