Richard Lee shocked as Arena pull the plug on Hereford

Trainer Richard Lee today revealed he is 'absolutely devastasted’ after it was announced Hereford Racecourse is to close.

Richard Lee – devastated
Richard Lee

Trainer Richard Lee today revealed he is 'absolutely devastasted’ after it was announced Hereford Racecourse is to close.

Lee, who is based near the south Shropshire border, has been visiting the course since he was a child and also had his first races as a jockey and trainer there in a career dating back almost 50 years.

He hit out at Northern and Arena Racing Group, who manage the course on Roman Road, after it was announced the venue will close at the end of the year.

He said it was a sign of the ‘terrible state’ racing was in. Horse racing was first recorded at Hereford in 1771, and fixtures at the course will be transferred to other tracks in the group, which include Worcester, Chepstow and Wolverhampton.

Representatives of Northern and Arena Racing Group had been negotiating with Herefordshire Council over extending their lease, which still has 17 years to run, to operate the course. But after talks broke down the decision was made to close down.

Arena’s announcement revealed that Folkestone, another course in the group, will close on a temporary basis, possibly reopening next year.

Lee said: “I have been going there since I was a little boy – I have lived in Herefordshire all my life and it was always our local course.

“I loved it and I remember my father taking me there.

“I shall be absolutely devastated if the course closes. It is a super racecourse and we need every course we can get.”

Jim Allen, head of racing development for Northern Racing, said it was a ‘sad day’ but added the group could not invest in the venue without a long-term lease in place.

A spokesman for Herefordshire council said: “Herefordshire Council deeply regrets the decision that Arena Leisure and Northern Racing has taken today to close Hereford Racecourse.

“The lease between the council and the racecourse has a further 17 years to run and the council remains willing to discuss options with the company for the continuation of racing in Hereford.”