Racing: Rescue plan secures Chantilly: The historic French course has been saved from the guillotine. Greg Wood reports

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THE FUTURE of Chantilly racecourse, one of the finest in the world, seemed secure yesterday after France's racing authorities approved a last- minute rescue package.

The 50-member ruling council of the French turf had been expected to confirm the track's closure. However, the imminence of a decision appears to have concentrated the minds of the region's local councils, who have formed a consortium with outside investors to provide F15m ( pounds 1.7m) for urgent repairs and improvements to the grandstands. They will also need to find F5m each year to cover Chantilly's running costs, while another F50m is needed to fully modernise the course.

'The whole ball game changed on Tuesday night,' Desmond Stoneham, the International Racing Bureau's Paris representative, said yesterday. 'Local dignitaries came up with the idea of a company to take over the whole responsibility. They have to come up with the money by 15 February, when it will be presented to the GIE-Galop (French racing's ruling body).'

Everyone, it seems, is happy, including the GIE-Galop, which had proposed the closure to comply with government conditions following a large cash injection in 1992. The rescue plan, which relieves the ruling body of its financial obligations to Chantilly, does not compromise the GIE-Galop's undertaking to make economies.

'You couldn't close Chantilly,' Stoneham said, 'it would be like closing Ascot.' Common sense finally prevailed over short-term economics, but in the 160-year history of the course, few finishes have been closer.

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