Tom George – Kempton made me
Tom George has frowned upon the news of Kempton Park potentially closing, a track he feels he owes his training career to because of the exploits of Nacarat.
Trainers Colin Tizzard and Tom George (right) chatting
The grey was in his element at Kempton, winning what is now the BetBright Handicap Chase in 2009 and 2012 and running with credit in the King George VI Chase on two occasions.
George is convinced what Nacarat achieved there helped raise his profile and take his training career to a higher level.
"I think the Kempton news is very serious for jump racing," said the Slad handler, after saddling a winner at Leicester on Thursday.
"Nacarat was a big part of my whole training career. I'd had good horses before, but Nacarat came along and Kempton brought out the best in him. Without Kempton my career wouldn't have been the same.
"Going to Sandown wouldn't have worked. It's as simple as that. Kempton is a unique track.
"The ground is always good there and that is the problem – you can't get good ground in the winter at many tracks.
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"The ground was decent at Taunton yesterday, but Nacarat wouldn't have gone round there. The ground is why I came to Leicester, but when they go to the next stage up, there are so few places for them."
It was announced on Tuesday that Kempton could be closed for housing redevelopment "from 2021 at the earliest".
The Jockey Club hopes to invest £500million into the sport in a 10-year plan, with nearby Sandown receiving some significant upgrades as well as being the proposed new home for the King George and a clutch of other big Kempton races.
George's disapproval of the Jockey Club's plans echo that of many in the jumping game, but Grand National-winning trainer Jonjo O'Neill said he can see the benefits.
"I'd be sad to see Kempton close but you have to move on and £500 million is not to be sniffed at," O'Neill said on www.racinguk.com. "If a big chunk of that can go into jump racing prize money, then everyone's a winner.
"Jump racing at Sandown is absolutely brilliant and it deserves a proper make-over with the sort of investment that we've seen at Cheltenham. They have the right man in charge there in Peter Jensen, the new chairman. He has done great things at Nottingham.
"This could be the making of jump racing for the next generation. If prize money gets a real boost, others will have to follow."
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies added: "I can understand people's reaction to the news about Kempton Park, but the sport needs to invest for the future, particularly around prize money.
"The Jockey Club is looking to invest half a billion pounds into the sport over the next 10 years and that will be key to ensuring jump racing has a bright future.
"They have spoken to me about their intentions and it is clear they want to boost jump racing across the country, including at the grassroots.
"Sandown is a great course and investment there would be a good thing, while spreading Kempton's other jumps fixtures around the country makes a lot of sense. They're doing the right thing and I wish them well with it."
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