Racing: New track to open in 2004

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Great Leighs is to become the first new racecourse in Britain since Taunton opened in 1927. The Essex venue was yesterday given the go-ahead by the British Horseracing Board, subject to it being granted a licence by the Jockey Club. That is expected to be a formality following completion of the project.

The decision follows three years of preparatory work to redevelop Essex County Showground, near Chelmsford, into what will be a left-handed, oval, all-weather track. It is expected to open towards the end of 2004.

Greg Nichols, the BHB chief executive, said: "It's very exciting for British racing that we now have the prospect of Britain's 60th racecourse and the first new racecourse in this country for over 75 years.

The course is the brainchild of the Essex entrepreneur John Holmes, who said: "I am thrilled that the BHB has recognised our potential for the racing industry and for the region. We have an exciting catchment area in an enterprising county and the scope to attract a new audience to the sport."