Let me begin by saying that Kempton Park is far from my favourite racecourse. This I suspect coloured my initial response to the shock disclosure that The Jockey Club want to sell it to the highest bidder.
Kempton features in my favourite work of literature, 'Three Men In A Boat', a book I propose to have buried with me, alongside a copy of The Racing Post. That though is an aside. 'We stopped under the willows by Kempton Park, and lunched. It is a pretty spot there: a pleasant grass plateau, running along by the water's edge, and overhung by willows.' Jerome, of course, was not writing about the racecourse and now it is disfigured by the all-weather track Kempton, at least the racecourse, cannot be described as 'a pretty little spot', but I think he would be as saddened to have the parkland covered in tarmac and houses as we are of losing the racecourse to a woolly-headed scheme not properly thought-out.
You see my first reaction was, as the Jockey Club hoped the universal judgement would be, if it is for the benefit of the sport then so be it. But it is not for the benefit of the sport, is it? Flat racing loses an all-weather track yet gains another. Whereas National Hunt loses yet another racecourse. Doing up Sandown is well and good. It needs it, apparently. But Kempton, as far as the majority of trainers is concerned, is irreplaceable and the wrong place for a King George. I now believe them.
If the proposal was to build a new National Hunt course at Newmarket, especially if it was the exact replica of Kempton, I could give my wholehearted support for the venture, even with an unnecessary new all-weather track. But in protecting the sport the Jockey Club seems more concerned with the welfare of the Flat to the exclusion of doing whats right for National Hunt.
So I say shame on you Jockey Club. Sell your own family silver before you rape the green belt and assign Kempton to the revised edition of 'A Long Time Gone'.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.