BHA comment on Kempton
Plans to move the King George VI Chase from Kempton to Sandown would only be sanctioned by the British Horseracing Authority if it was "in the best interests of the sport".
Could Sandown Park host the King George VI Chase?
It was announced earlier this month that Kempton could be closed for housing redevelopment "from 2021 at the earliest", sparking considerable opposition from large parts of the jumping community.
Its owners Jockey Club Racecourses hope to invest £500million into the sport in a 10-year plan, with a new all-weather venue to be built if that idea goes ahead
The Jockey Club's land at The Links in Newmarket is the front-runner as the location for a new floodlit artificial track, with the King George switching to sister track Sandown, whose facilities would be upgraded. Other races would be distributed within the Jockey Club's portfolio of tracks.
Speaking on At The Races, Nick Rust, chief executive of the BHA, said: "It's their property and if they decide they don't wish to race there anymore, that's entirely up to them. The BHA's role is in a few areas – first of all if they wish to open a new racecourse at Newmarket, which has been suggested, we have to review and approve that, though for competition reasons we'd have to have a very good reason not to approve, in such circumstances.
"We have to approve any new fixtures that a new racecourse would want. The all-weather fixtures from Kempton, there is precedent that if they opened a new track at Newmarket they could carry those with them, but if they wanted more fixtures to be granted that is entirely in the remit of the BHA to create or allocate."
He went on: "The other thing we are responsible for is approving moves or changes to any Pattern races and Listed races, so all of the races from Kempton will be subject to a decision by the BHA which the board will approve.
"The Jockey Club needs approval from the BHA, and the BHA is bound by its articles to act in the best interests of the sport overall. We have to have a set process with the sport and we engage with racecourses and horsemen about this and it is our remit to deal with it.
"We want to be neutral with regards to what the Jockey Club wishes to do, we have to make our decisions in the best interest of the sport. I'm not saying we're standing by, but we have to remain neutral in terms of the decision, we have to take the decisions on a fair basis in line with our memorandum of understanding and in line with the law.
"We are very keen to make sure jumps racing survives and flourishes, we are very keen to make sure if this plan goes ahead – and we are a long way off it and you saw the reaction of local people and local councillors – if this does go ahead the BHA needs to take some decisions, which I have outlined. We want to make sure we hold the Jockey Club to account as well, that if the plan does go ahead they do carry out those investments.
"There's a lot of water to go under the bridge and the Jockey Club – I know its taken a lot of stick for being seen as claiming itself as the custodian for our sport, but they have got a lot of experience in British racing, they have invested a hell of a lot and they've made this plan in good faith.
"I am sure they didn't take a decision to potentially close Kempton lightly. No one wants to see Kempton closing, but we've got a sport where the economics have not been adding up, until we get the economics right we can't always be as choosy and picky as we'd like to be.
"I would be delighted if Kempton stays open, and I would hope that the Jockey Club will continue to review its options and I expect they will – there's five years before this can become a reality anyway, there's a lot of water to go under the bridge and we will do our best to make sure we make the best decisions for the sport and to hold the Jockey Club to account to make sure they are investing properly for the sport.
"I'm sure the Jockey Cub is looking hard at the reaction they have had and their plans overall, and they have to get planning permission yet. We've seen the initial reaction."