PA Sport

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Published: 11th January 2017

PA Sport

Clive Smith, owner of legendary five-time King George VI Chase hero Kauto Star, admitted to being shocked and saddened by the news that Kempton could be closed for housing redevelopment.

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The Paul Nicholls-trained Kauto Star was one of the most popular chasers of the modern era, and brought the house down at the Sunbury-on-Thames venue when he broke Desert Orchid’s record by winning a fifth King George in 2011.
Kauto Star’s ashes rest under a statue of the great horse, which was unveiled in the Kempton parade ring on Boxing Day in 2014.
Smith told Press Association Sport: “It is quite a shock and it seems a great shame.
“There’s a statue of Kauto Star there in the middle of the parade ring so I’m not sure what will happen to that. It might get moved to Sandown, I suppose.
“I never thought something like this would happen, but you just never know.
“I know housing is a big thing at the moment, as is green space and rising birth rates, and things like that.
“There is so much to consider.”
The Jockey Club sent shockwaves across the sport on Tuesday when it announced Kempton could close by “2021 at the earliest” as part of a 10-year plan to invest at least £500million into British racing.
Kempton also has a floodlit all-weather Flat track, with the Jockey Club having announced proposals for a new racecourse to be built, potentially in Newmarket.
Should the proposed redevelopment go ahead, the King George will be moved to nearby Sandown, which will be a chief beneficiary of Jockey Club investments.
Mark Tompkins, chairman of the Newmarket Trainers Federation, hailed the proposed introduction of a new all-weather circuit on The Links as “the best thing that has happened to Newmarket in a long time.”
He said: “It is going to take time but this is a marvellous initiative by the Jockey Club. I can’t wait for it to happen.
“I don’t know all the ins and outs regarding Kempton, but what Newmarket definitely needs is an all-weather track.
“It is not going to happen overnight. The Jockey Club foresight here is that they are looking further ahead and this is not a short-term thing. They are looking 20 to 50 years ahead.
“This is the best thing that has happened to Newmarket in a long time. It is tremendous.”
Charlie Fellowes, who trains from St Gatien Cottage Stables in Newmarket, admitted to having mixed feelings.
He said: “As long as none of Newmarket’s turf programme is affected and it is simply a transfer of the all-weather at Kempton to Newmarket, that will be fine.
“Kempton has been a lucky track for me so it comes with a bit of sadness as I’ve had a lot of winners there.
“Racing is very expensive thing and in respect of travelling it will help make things cheaper racing at Newmarket, instead of going to Kempton twice a week.
“From my point of view it helps me but there a lot of people like those in Lambourn that will be disappointed.
“It will give Newmarket something through the winter to keep the town buzzing.”
Henrietta Knight won successive renewals of the King George at Kempton with three-time Gold Cup hero Best Mate (2002) and Edredon Bleu (2003).
She said: “I think it’s absolutely tragic.
“I know they don’t get the crowds there for the racing on the all-weather, but Kempton is a huge part of National Hunt racing, especially at Christmas.
“They’ve had the King George at Sandown before and it’s not the same.
“Kempton is so popular as a jumps track and if this happens it will be very sad.
“This is the way the world is going, unfortunately.”
Dual-purpose trainer Gary Moore has won major races over jumps at Kempton with the likes of Sire De Grugy and Ar Mad in recent years.
The Lower Beeding-based trainer has also saddled more winners on the all-weather at Kempton than at any other Flat venue in the last five years.
Moore said: “It’s just a great shame. The all-weather track has not been down for long.
“It is very disappointing for people like me, even on the all-weather, but especially for the jumping track.
“It was one place where you always got decent ground all year round jumping. Sandown is the greatest track in the country as far as I’m concerned but the King George is the King George – it’s a speed race on a speed track – and now they’re putting on a track with more stamina.
“I am very disappointed. I think it is a sad day for racing when a great track like that has to shut down.”
Regarding the proposed new all-weather track in Newmarket, the trainer added: “If I trained in Newmarket I would say it would be great, but whoever designed it, they want to try and go over that bridge (Dartford) a few times and they might change their minds.
“It won’t be a place I will be visiting very often. The only good thing is I’ve got my grandchildren there and I can go and see them a bit more.”

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