|Wednesday 5th December 2018|
Towcester to Rise from the Ashes with a Return to Racing in 2019
A little over three months ago, the racing world was shaken by the news that Towcester Racecourse had gone into administration. The facility shut down with terrifying speed; one day all was as normal and then, on 16 August, the owners Towcester Racecourse Ltd delivered a concise press release that simply said that all races for the immediate future had been cancelled and that the racecourse would be closed forthwith as a result of what it describe as “trading difficulties.” A week later, representatives from KPMG’s restructuring arm were appointed as administrators.
Towcester Racecourse photo: @TowcesterRaces
All but three of the 137 staff that were, at the time, on the books were laid off, and the long-term career prospects for the remaining three looked grim, as they were only kept on to help the administrators find a buyer. Three months on, however, and the prognosis for Towcester Racecourse is a little more healthy.
Thank the LordA new buyer that will guarantee the racecourse’s long term survival remains the ultimate goal, but while the site stands empty and forlorn, that looks improbable. It is therefore a huge step forward to hear that racing will return to the ground next year thanks to investment from Femor Land LLP.
The company might not sound familiar, probably because it was only incorporated last month. But the names behind it are another matter. The current chairman of the course, Lord Hesketh has long connections with Towcester, his middle name is Femor and he is determined to see racing return to Towcester. Lord Hesketh is something of an enigma. On the outside, he looks 100 percent English gentry, with his string of titles, his right-leaning political affiliations and his friendships with the likes of Bernie Ecclestone and Nigel Farage.However, he also has a reputation as something of a maverick and a man who is prepared to move with the times and challenge conventional thinking. In his youth, he built and raced his own Formula One car, and in the mid 70s, he employed no less a man than James Hunt to drive it. Years later, it was Lord Heskith who saw the way the wind was blowing in the betting industry. All those betting sites you see listed on Casinoshark show what an inclusive sector it has become, and it was Heskith’s idea to introduce greyhound racing at Towcester back in 2014.
Who has bought what?To say that Towcester has been saved would be an over statement. There are still plenty of details being kept behind closed doors, and it will be 2019 before the long term picture emerges. What we do know, however, is cause for quiet confidence that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel.
The newly incorporated company has purchased 10 horse racing fixtures, the dog track and the stands. It has also leased the racetrack for an undisclosed period of time. No financial information regarding the deal has been made public.Ostensibly, Femor Land LLP is distinct from Lord Hesketh himself, but even here, there is plenty of intrigue and obscurity. In its official registration, just two company officers are listed. Lord Hesketh is not there, but one of them is Anthony Henry Westropp, better known as Lord Hesketh’s brother in law, Harry.
Lord Hesketh seems certain to be playing a pivotal role behind the scenes, and is also known to be involved with Towcester Racecourse Ltd, the outgoing owner.
Let the racing recommence
Three months of inactivity can soon make a venue look a little sad and down-at-heel and this is certainly the case at Towcester. The venue needs some repairs and maintenance, but it is believed that as soon as these have been carried out, the gates will be reopened and racing can get back underway.
The administrators are still playing their cards close to their chests, and have refused to be drawn into speculations as to what the future holds. They have only confirmed that there are “a range of options” being considered for Towcester’s future, and that their intention is to make an announcement “early in the new year.”
Clearly, Towcester is not out of the woods yet. This is an era when people have a wider choice of how to spend their evenings and weekends than ever, while land values continue to spiral upwards. Towcester will need a steady hand to guide it in a direction that will make it a financially viable proposition for out 21st century lifestyles.
Two things give us reason to be optimistic, however. One is that Lord Hesketh is someone with both business sense and a genuine affection for Towcester. The second is that it will stand a far greater chance of long term viability when the stands are once again full of race goers.