14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Farewell to FolkestoneHeadlines
Racing at Folkestone

A second British racecourse was left teetering on the edge of extinction as Folkestone hosted its last fixture for the foreseeable future on Tuesday.

There are faint hopes that closing could only be a temporary measure, but in the meantime the county of Kent no longer has a racecourse, following the closure of Wye in 1974. Folkestone has staged meetings since 1898.

Owners Arena Racing Company, who also own Hereford, which closed on Sunday, believe operations could continue at Folkestone if more than 800 homes were built on the site, with the funds being directed to update facilities and move the actual position of the course itself.

A proposal was submitted to Shepway District Council, but it was left out of their core strategy (essentially a blueprint for future development in the area) that will be passed on to the Secretary of State's inspectorate. The council say they are still open to discussions in order for the racecourse to remain open.

ARC's chairman Michael Howard, or Lord Howard of Lympne, was a long-serving local MP. He believes a lifeline would be if the council would include in their core strategy some general wording about future developments which would enable more detailed plans to be proposed.

Howard said: "Arena made clear in 2007 that the racecourse was not viable in its present state and we made a proposal for the redevelopment to the council, but the inspector didn't like it.

"If we can get some words in the core strategy proposal then we could be in business. This means we can start talking to the council again, so we can keep the door open. If the inspector continues to be very negative and refuses to put the language in, then it makes it very difficult. I've had some very happy times at Folkestone and I very much hope it can continue."

ARC's assistant racing director (south) Jim Allen outlined what would happen in the immediate future.

He said: "There will be two full-time groundsmen kept on, and one site manager. It isn't quite the same as Hereford, which is being maintained as a racecourse and would look the same if it re-opened. Folkestone would not stay the same and we will be taking the running rail down and removing the fences."

The final race was the 'Save The Last Race' For Eastwell Manor Handicap Chase and it was won by Marc Goldstein on Quartz Du Montceau, trained in East Sussex by Diana Grissell, who said: "We had our first winner here in 1976. It's a very special place and it's appropriate we've won the last race."

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