Greyhound racing to return to Towcester Racecourse in April
Greyhound racing will return to Towcester Racecourse in April - and point-to-point horse racing could also return later in the year.
New owners Henlow Racing took control of the course last October, and have confirmed they be opening for greyhound racing business this spring, with the first meeting scheduled for Friday, April 18.
They will then be staging meetings every Friday and Saturday night throughout the year, but the days of free admission at Towcester are over, with Henlow intending to chrarge for the pleasure.
The dog track and racecourse have been closed since August, 2018, when the company running it went into administration, but Henlow Racing managing director Kevin Boothby has taken over, and he is keen to return the Easton Neston venue to former glories as quickly as possible.
"We are going to start racing on Saturday, April 18," confirmed Boothby. "That is a big, big night in racing, with regards to the quality of racing, but we are also going to provide live entertainment afterwards.
"We just want to make Towcester a big community thing, so we are going to do various things there, but the greyhound racing will start on April 18, and then the following week we will go Friday and Saturday, and that will carry on throughout the year."
So why April 18?
"I wanted it to be a date where everybody in the greyhound world could attend, and we need three months to plan things and get a lot of the public there, because we want to make it a special night" said Boothby, who also owns Henlow Racing dog track, situated near Biggleswade.
"I didn't want to do it Easter weekend, so I thought the following weekend would be perfect, and I wanted to do a Saturday night as a standalone night, before going Friday and Saturday the following week."
Boothby's Henlow Racing track is there mainly for the television market and is 'a racing machine', with seven meetings being staged a week, and many of those played out to an empty stadium on midweek mornings.
"Towcester is a different ball game," admitted Boothby, talking to BBC Radio Northampton.
"A lot of times when we race at Henlow, there is nobody there because we race for the Australian market, the overseas market, and we can race with just 30 or 40 people there at 8am.
"The thought of running Towcester, and getting three, four, five or six thousand people there for greyhound racing is a staggering thing for me to want to do, and to achieve.
"Towcester is the Ascot of greyhound racing, for two years it staged the main event of our year, the Greyhound Derby.
"They did a good job on that, and the course closing was a big loss to the sport, so taking it over and putting it back up there is a big privilege. I am very confident it will succeed."
As well as bringing greyhound racing back to south Northants, Henlow Racing are keen to turn Towcester into a total 'entertainment hub', and have plenty of plans along that front, including an outdoor cinema, concerts, festivals and also the utilisation of the lakes on site, including kayaking, canoeing and inflatable obstacle courses.
But what is likely to please the horse racing lovers in the surrounding area and county more than anything else, is that Henlow are planning to bring that sport back to Easton Neston,in the form of point-to-point meetings
And they also have the long-term vision of bringing national hunt racing back to the historic venue.
"When I speak to the locals, everybody has been asking me 'when is the horse racing coming back?'," admitted Boothby.
"Well, we will be getting point-to-point racing at Towcester sometime this year, and hopefully by May or June is a possible option.
"If not, then definitely towards the end of the year, and then what we are looking at for 2021 is having 12 Sunday point-to-point meetings put in the calendar, which I think will be a great spectacle."
So, what are the chances of national hunt ever returning to Towcester?
"If there are fixtures are available, and as a business we are going well, then obviously we would go for that," said Boothby.
"Towcester is a fantastic racecourse and has been well kept, so if that was the case then we would go for it."
But for now, it is going to be dog racing only, and Boothby confirmed that they will be reintroducing admission charges, but he insists the prices will be good value.
Asked if the free entry would be continuing, Boothby said: "At the end of the day, they (the previous owners) went bust, and that tells you a story, that it went bust because it was free entry.
"As a business, we can not open Towcester with free entry on a Friday and Saturday night.
"On the opening night the admission will be £15 a head, but if you book in advance online it will be £13, and that will be all of your racing and then live music until midnight.
"After that we are going to do Friday and Saturday's at £10 entry, or £8 if booked early online, and that is not a ridiculous amount of money.
"A track like Romford where they race on a Friday, they charge £8, and although Romford is a lovely stadium, but Towcester is the premier track so to go £10 is realistic."
For tickets to the opening night of greyhound racing, plus further details on what is happening at Towcester Racecourse, go to towcester-racecourse.co.uk