Long-awaited grass course in Chelmsford faces further delay after summer drought

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Chelmsford’s new grass track has received just 10mm of rainfall in the past three months

By David Milnes

Chelmsford’s ambition to become Britain’s first racecourse to hold floodlit turf racing could be delayed until 2023 after East Anglia’s driest summer on record.

The Essex track has received just 10mm of rain in the past three months, leaving course officials to apply almost three million liters of water to the new grass track, which sits inside of the existing all-weather circuit.

Officials originally hoped to hold a test run at the new track last spring, but the only horses to use the surface were Wesley Ward’s team for Royal Ascot in June.

Race director Andy Waitt said: “We are pleased with the grass track which has excellent root growth. We put nearly three million liters of water in there over the summer from our own tank and in an ideal world we’d like to race in October but this is subject to BHA approval and testing. .

“However, due to the conditions we’ve had this summer, it may now be spring when we get the track running.”

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Chelmsford’s new lights could be operational for its meeting next Thursday

On his rain gauge, Waitt added: “We’ve had no rain recently and about 10mm in the last three months. We watered like the other courses to keep it green.”

When the grass track finally comes into play, it could be a small step to start. The course has just completed the installation of state of the art lighting for the project and the existing track following damage to some of the light columns from Storm Eunice in February, since then the track has had no fixtures enlightened.

Waitt said: “To start, I imagine it will be a split map with five all-weather races and two on grass. We changed the lighting to LED which cost us £2m. Initially, some of the columns were damaged by storm Eunice last winter and we took the opportunity to change them all.

“We haven’t had a race under the lights since then and instead raced a bit earlier like you can do in the summer. Fortunately, we hope to have them ready to use for our next evening meeting next Thursday. [September 8]. We didn’t run after 8 p.m. this summer, but in winter we can run until 9 p.m. or 9:15 p.m.

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