0 Hereford bows out with bumper attendance

Hereford, a city which has staged horse racing for over 240 years, hosted its last meeting for the foreseeable future, perhaps ever, on Sunday in front of a crowd of 2,600 spectators.

Hereford, a city which has staged horse racing for over 240 years, hosted its last meeting for the foreseeable future, perhaps ever, yesterday in front of a crowd of 2,600 spectators.

But satisfaction at what appeared to be a bumper attendance for a little course which is hugely popular among the racing fraternity was tempered by the fact that only 1,100 had paid to enter. The rest, including 500 who got in for free off a radio promotion, were made up of owners, trainers and media.

It is still not clear whether the racecourse will ever be used again. Groundsmen were dutifully replacing the divots after the last race and it will be maintained by the leaseholder, ARC, which has also applied for a licence so that, in the event of a harsh winter, fixtures can be switched here next year. However, there was little optimism among racing professionals that they would be visiting again.

"It will be maintained as an active racecourse - just one with no racing," said Jim Allen, of ARC. "We're applying for a licence so that if anyone takes it on they will at least have a licenced racecourse.'

ARC is still involved in discussions with the owners, the council, and recently received heads of terms for a new lease but Allen, who described the track as "financially unviable", said it was still willing to talk to any parties interested in taking over. On Tuesday, Folkestone, also in the ARC stable, stages its last meeting.

Cheltenham's December meeting suffers from a small crowd by its own standards, primarily because of Christmas shopping. If the International Hurdle there on Saturday demonstrated anything, it was that there is not much between Zarkandar, Grandouet and reigning champion Rock On Ruby.

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