Sands of time running for new race track

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The Independent Online
Momentum is growing behind the campaign to establish a new racecourse on the Welsh coast at Pembrey. It would rival Yarmouth as Britain's busiest seaside track with summer holiday fixtures as its mainstay, writes Chris Corrigan.

The Pembrey site is close to a beach with seven miles of sands backed by dunes overlooking Carmarthen Bay. A short distance to the west are Pendine Sands, where 51 years ago a land speed record was set.

The race is on for the proposed track to be developed in time for the year 2,000. This depends largely on discussions today by members of the British Horseracing Board, who will be considering an application for the new course to stage 20 fixtures in three years time.

South Wales businessman Mel Davies, a long-standing owner and sponsor, and Jack Bennett, former manager of Worcester racecourse, are behind the plan. Together they have invested pounds 20,000 on the preparation of a feasibility study that claims widespread enthusiasm for what would become Britain's 60th racecourse.

But their plans cannot progress unless racing's governors agree to provide the necessary fixtures. "Our case is unquestionable," Davies argues. "Wales has the highest incidence of betting shops outside London, but only two courses. Bangor primarily serves England, while Chepstow is closer to Bristol than Cardiff.

"The Welsh public is being disenfranchised while the money its punters generate for the Levy is helping to pay for nine racecourses in Yorkshire.

"We need to stimulate interest in Wales. It's about time Welsh racehorse owners saw their horses running in Wales," added Davies who, during a 30-year involvement in racing, experienced top-level success as an owner with Barnbrook Again, twice Champion Two-mile chaser.

The local authority and Tourist Board have offered financial support but Davies fears he faces an uphill task in convincing a BHB board, whose membership may favour the established tracks.

"If the BHB ignores vested interests we will get what we want. But I have my doubts. I suspect some people are lobbying against us. If we fail, they will want to know why. We may lose the battle on Tuesday, but we will win the war."

Sirrell Griffiths, who saddled Norton's Coin to win the 1990 Gold Cup at Cheltenham at 100-1, trains his small string at nearby Nantgaredig.

Last night, Griffiths said: ``We would adore a course on our own doorstep. There are large numbers of racing people in this part of Wales and I don't see why people wouldn't travel to a new track here.''

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