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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Small window of hope for HerefordHeadlines
Racing at Hereford

Hereford's owners Arena Racing Company say they are still open to negotiation over the potential for the racecourse to be reopened at some stage in the future.

Only 17 years remain on the lease for the venue with Herefordshire Council, and with ARC maintaining it is not financially viable to keep it open, the track on Sunday became the first in Britain to close since Stockton in 1981 (with the exception of Great Leighs). ARC are to close Folkestone on Tuesday.

"We're leaving two groundstaff here and keeping everything as it is as a racecourse. The fences and running rail will be maintained as well, we will be cutting and fertilising the track and there will be a site manager to maintain stands and buildings," said assistant racing director (south) Jim Allen.

"We're still willing to talk to anyone that comes along, but at the moment no-one has approached us. We'd like to see racing continue at Hereford at some point in the future and we'll do what we can to make that happen. The same goes at Folkestone.

"There has been one redundancy and all the rest of the staff have found new jobs."

Racing was first staged at Hereford in 1771 and the track is within the city, meaning it would have considerable potential for development in the future.

Allen added: "There are 17 years left on the lease and any racecourse or body can come and talk to us about it. The council has come back to us about a new 125-year lease, but this has only recently been received. It is very brief and there will be a meeting at some point in the new year.

"We are preparing to shut down and are not expecting to race in 2013. In 2014 I could see it in action, but the nuts and bolts of it are it doesn't make much money and that's why we're closing it.

"Two years ago it staged 19 meetings, still not making money and even with media rights having improved, it was still not financially viable. They are big beasts to run, and no business people have come to us to take it on."

A quickfire double for trainer Martin Keighley and jockey Alain Cawley in the last two races meant they etched themselves into a little bit of track history, with Seymour Eric driven home in the concluding Thermolast Handicap Hurdle. Keighley said: "It's a local track to me, it's well run and it's sad to see it go."

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