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Shock as Great Leighs loses licence to race and enters administration 17/01/2009
Chris Cook

The future of Great Leighs racecourse was plunged into doubt by rapid developments yesterday as administrators were appointed at Britain's newest track. Earlier, the sport's ruling body revealed that the course no longer had a licence to stage race meetings.

A statement from Deloitte LLP, a business advisory firm, said it had been appointed as administrator to the group of companies that own and operate Great Leighs. "We will be assessing the position of the group in order to determine the best outcome for its creditors," the statement continued. "We will continue to work with existing management and key business partners to continue to trade the business in the short term.

"We are currently in discussions with the sport's regulatory body, the British Horseracing Authority, in respect of securing the course's racing licence and ability to continue to trade as a going concern while we investigate the opportunity of a sale."

The BHA had earlier shocked the sport by announcing that Great Leighs had lost its licence. All racecourses must renew their licence on 1 January each year but the Essex track was only allowed to continue operating under a series of temporary licences, the latest of which expired at midnight on Thursday night.

The track had applied for another temporary licence at a hearing on Thursday but this was declined. The BHA refused to elaborate on the reasons for that decision but it is understood to have been motivated by concern about Great Leighs' ability to meet its financial commitments. One supplier, whose relationship with the course ended acrimoniously in November, claims to be owed a five-figure sum.

Whatever the track's future, Thursday's fixture has already been lost and re­assigned to Kempton. The next raceday at Great Leighs is scheduled for the following Thursday, 29 January.

The news is a heavy blow to John ­Holmes, the entrepreneur who has spent more than a decade and a reported £30m in the attempt to realise his dream of a racecourse at the former Essex county showground. However, the project appeared ill-starred from the first, missing its original opening date, in October 2006, by 18 months due to a series of hold-ups.

Attendance at its debut race meeting in April was restricted to racing professionals and invitees. When the gates were finally opened to the paying public the following month, there was disappointment at the limited extent of facilities. In particular, there was only a temporary grandstand, sited on the inside of the circuit, severely limiting viewing for most races.

Holmes issued a brief statement, referring to a "restructuring process" and claimed: "We are back at the BHA on Monday with a view to resuming racing from 29 January." Those matters will now be handled by Deloitte.

There were immediate expressions of concern from trainers at Newmarket, who have benefited from the proximity of an all-weather racetrack staging Flat racing through the winter. "There's nothing wrong with the track but obviously the viewing facilities left a lot to be desired," said Michael Jarvis.

"It wasn't quite the finished article and everything was a bit premature but I think they've been very unfortunate to be trying to get a racecourse up and running in the present climate."

"The track was always very fair but you had to look into the future to get the rest of it," said fellow trainer Simon Callaghan. "It was a work in progress regarding the stands and the facilities but I'm sure they would have sorted that out in time."