Letter: Don't beat Great Leighs with the Kempton stick.
I DON'T know if Alastair Down's attack on the Great Leighs project (September 12) was prompted by a personal vendetta against John Holmes or by ignorance, but in case it was the latter, I would like to explain a few points.
Racing does need either more racecourses or more all-weather racing if it is to function satisfactorily in anything like its present form.
As the fixture list has expanded, the wear and tear on grass tracks has increased hugely so that more and more tracks nowadays provide racing surfaces that are becoming less and less safe for horses to gallop on. We cannot just stand back and allow this to continue, accepting as inevitable that more and more horses are injured while racing.
Racing is currently a very popular spectator sport and, while the Kempton plan was crazy because potential racegoers in the southern and western suburbs of London were already spoilt for choice, the same cannot be said of the densely populated north-eastern suburbs and Essex, one of the very few counties in Britain without a racecourse.
The ill-conceived Kempton plan should not be used as a stick with which to beat Great Leighs which, by filling a void, looks sure to be a popular venue.
What racing also needs is people like John Holmes, who are prepared to put their own time and money on the line to try to make a project work that can be to the overall benefit of racing. He is to be applauded for this, not attacked: if it doesn't work, he'll be the one to have lost out, but if it does work, then all of racing will benefit. I think, on that basis, we all owe him our thanks and support.
So that's what racing does need: people who are prepared to put their money into making something work.
What it doesn't need is supposedly informed pundits being paid to use the Racing Post as a medium to sneer at the "dross" that forms the lower half of the racing programme (and without which there would be no racing programme), at sponsors, and at anyone who is bold enough to attempt to do something worthwhile.
John Berry, trainer Newmarket
Alastair Down replies: Mr Berry's letter confirms that not all the cuckoos have yet flown south for the winter.
His suggestion that I have a personal vendetta against John Holmes is plain silly. I have never met the gentleman, nor was he mentioned in the article.
The only possible reference to Mr Holmes was the observation: "I admire the vision of those who have built up the scheme, acknowledge the vast amount of work already put in and the sums of money invested." Hardly the stuff of vendettas.
Mr Berry describes the Kempton venture as "ill-conceived" - but endorses a similar venture (minus an outstanding jumping programme) because it is in Essex, which lacks a racecourse. So do a lot of other counties in England, Wales and Scotland, though - admittedly not on Mr Berry's Newmarket doorstep.
I wasn't "sneering" at "dross" - just telling it like it is.