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Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Sunday, 20 April 2008 19:23 UK

Great Leighs stages first meeting

Great Leighs racetrack
Temple of Thebes won the inaugural race

Great Leighs staged its first meeting on Sunday - with Temple of Thebes, ridden by Stephen Donohoe, winning the inaugural race.

The Essex course is Britain's first new racecourse in 81 years, and finally opened having been beset with delays.

A number of other top trainers and riders turned up for the meeting, which had a restricted attendance for invited guests and professionals only.

The one-mile course is expected to be open to the public on 28 May.

Great Leighs was originally scheduled to open its doors in October 2006 but a series of delays hampered its progress.

It finally got the go-ahead on Thursday to open after the British Horseracing Authority gave the course the green light after a few issues had been resolved.

Some 45 courses have closed since Taunton became the last one to be opened in 1927.

"It's a good, fair track and the same surface as we have at home," said Newmarket trainer Ed Dunlop.

Chairman John Holmes was delighted to see the track finally opened after months of delay.

He said: "We are not going to be huge like Ascot, but we are looking for three feature meetings a year and we'd like to try a Breeders' Cup trial, hopefully on 27 September.

"We want to look after our public and if they leave and say 'what a lovely little track', that'll do."

The course will be the third all-weather floodlit track in Britain and will have a 10,000-seater grandstand which was used at last year's Ryder Cup in Ireland.

see also
Horse racing on the BBC
14 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
Quiz the racing team
29 Mar 07 |  Horse Racing
Great Leighs debut delayed again
20 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
Great Leighs suffers new setback
18 Jan 08 |  Horse Racing
Opening setback for Great Leighs
04 Jan 08 |  Horse Racing
Great Leighs faces further delay
22 Dec 06 |  Horse Racing
Great Leighs not ready for racing
05 Aug 06 |  Horse Racing
New racecourse gets green light
24 Jun 03 |  Horse Racing

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