Great Leighs is Unveiled
Not many people are fortunate enough to see their dreams become a reality. John Holmes had the dream of building a racecourse in Essex, and once the British Horseracing Authority gave him the authorization to erect a racecourse, his dream started taking shape and Great Leighs Racecourse became the sixtieth racecourse in Britain. What makes it even more historic, is that it is the first new racecourse to be built in eighty-one years, with the last racecourse to go operational being Taunton in 1927.
On Sunday, the 20th of April 2008, a selected six hundred people were invited to attend the first racing event at Great Leighs. Even though some of the structures are still under construction, it gave those in attendance insight into how the racecourse will look once completed. Many thought that there would never be an opening day, as delays and problems plagued the project since receiving construction permission in 2003. While the infrastructure is being tested, attendance will be by invitation only. The racecourse will only fully open to the public at the end of May 2008, but everyone who was fortunate enough to be invited on Sunday walked away extremely impressed with the track and the soon to be finished facilities.
Most of the delays have been due to John Holmes being reluctant to compromise on any of the design work and quality of the facilities. On completion, the Great Leighs Racecourse is set to be worth the £40million price tag. Once fully operational, the racecourse is predicted to welcome thousands of spectators and punters to its racing events, as the track has already received seven thousand applications for the limited two thousand membership list.
Of course, the most important part of the racecourse is the track itself. The wide all weather Polytrack was first put to the test by jockeys, trainers and their horses by allowing twenty horses access to the track for training. Only positive feedback has been received by some of the big names in horse racing, such as Ed Dunlop, Hayley Turner, Michael Fenton, Robert Cowell, John Berry and Gay Kelleway. Everyone commented on how well the horses ran on the track, its safety for the horses and praised the fact that the track offered sweeping broad bends that added to the safety of the course.
As the mist started to clear on Sunday morning, six hundred spectators took their seats to see who would be the horse to make it into the history books of the Great Leighs Racecourse as being the first horse to win a horse racing event at the track. The honor went to Temple of Thebes, a filly that was ridden by Stephen Donohoe and trained by Ed Dunlop.
As the date for public opening draws near, work on the racetrack continues feverishly, to ensure that no-one walks away from the track disappointed. Everyone who has visited the Great Leighs Racetrack believes that it will be an asset to the horse racing industry and to Essex. John Holmes is very realistic in his approach to the racetrack, stating that it will never have the same nostalgia or atmosphere as Ascot Racecourse, but it will most certainly create its own memorable moments in the years to come and offer spectators another magnificent racecourse to enjoy and support.