Leighs puts delay in past with Express opening

Almaty Express and Darryll Holland carved a small entry in racing's annals yesterday when winning the first race in front of a paying crowd at Great Leighs.

The Essex course, the first new racing venue in Britain for 81 years, staged its first fixtures last month after its opening date had been repeatedly put back from the original target in the autumn of 2006.

Even yesterday the course had to survive a 9am inspection by the BHA before it could open its gates to members of the public, but in the event attracted 3,500 customers, most of them pre-booked. "We have our foot on the gas and are going forward,"said the course's owner, John Holmes. "We wouldn't be here now if I was licking my wounds and looking back."

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