One of the oldest racecourses in the UK has closed its doors for the final time.
Towcester, one of the Midlands’ premier tracks, has been forced to close after struggling to bounce back from going into administration in August 2018.
The course first opened its doors to racing way back in 1876, and amongst many iconic moments over the next 140 years arguably the most famous was AP McCoy’s 4,000th career win which came here aboard Mountain Tunes in 2013.
Racing buffs were desperate to see the track saved and several fundraising efforts were started, but administrators were forced to sell assets in order to cut the estimated £1.3 million debt.
New owners reportedly took over the company in late 2018, however what started as a temporary closure of the track has now been confirmed as a permanent measure.
The remaining fixtures which were to be held at the course have now been sold to the Arena Racing Company, who will announce details of alternative dates and venues in the near future.
The chief operating officer of the British Horseracing Authority, Richard Wayman, was sad to see the course closed to the public.
“We had hoped, following the course going into administration, that the new owners might find a solution which allowed racing to resume, and it is disappointing that has not proved possible,” he confirmed.
“The BHA will now work with ARC to find the most suitable venues for the 10 fixtures involved, which will all remain over jumps.”
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Towcester has long been regarded as of the most idiosyncratic courses in UK racing, with its slow cambers and unique undulations said to suit ‘slower’ horses.
All was not lost when both Arc and the Jockey Club announced their intentions to take on the running of Towcester after it entered administration, but after examining the books both parties decided it would not be economically wise to do so.
Since their troubles were revealed in 2018, Towcester had been hosting their fixtures away from their own track as the owners sought a solution to their problems. Alas, one never came.
This is the first major course closure on UK soil since 2012, when both Folkestone and Hereford were forced to shut down, although of course the latter was subsequently reopened by Arc in 2016.
It is anticipated that the facilities will remain open, with discussions around the resumption of greyhound racing – and the addition of point-to-point fixtures to the schedule – all being considered.
But it is another blow for UK racing, which is going through a hard time as it is with the FOBT stake reduction cutting into margins and prize money on the decrease as a result.
However, the BHA are remaining positive about the future of the sport, with Wayman saying:
“From championship racing to grassroots, jump racing remains extremely popular, with a growing base of loyal and knowledgeable supporters.
“The outlook for the sport is a positive one.”