There are now 85 days before Romford simultaneously stages the final of the Champion Stakes, the heats of the TV Trophy and the opening of the new grandstand in what is probably the most important nights in the track’s 88 year history writes Floyd Amphlett.
It will be very near two years since asbestos was first discovered in the old main grandstand and the possibility of the London Road site being absorbed into the surrounding mass of housing looked a strong possibility.
Instead, the newly formed LadbrokesCoral took the decision to save the stadium and appointed a new director of stadiums in Ian Smyth.
Many tens of thousands of man hours later, the old grandstand is gone, the revamped Millennium Stand is close to completion and the winning line is in sight (albeit in a different place).
Despite a series of building issues that put the project back almost six months from the original timetable, the meticulous, if sometimes frustrated Smyth, now has greater hands-on control on events which has enabled him to plan a series of key deadlines.
The first is next Wednesday – June 19 – when a massive crane is due on site. At the completion of the meeting, the crane will start to swing the iron girders into place that will become the new judge’s box.
It should be complete within a week, but 10 days have been put aside to allow for any complications.
Work will continue on the new car park, located where the main grandstand used to be, and that is scheduled to be completed by the end of July.
Separately, work will take place with a major renovation of the paddock and racing kennels, to include new doors and floors and major spruce up.
Racing will cease on the old circuit after the last race on Saturday August 10.
The new judge’s box and winning line will go live over that weekend and the first trials on the altered circuit, with the 400m standard distance and 575 metres swapping over, is due to commence the following Monday (August 12).
All graded dogs will be required to re-trial (on welfare grounds), and dogs planning to contest the Coral Champions Stakes will also be allowed an outing to acclimatise to the changed circuit.
The track will re-open for racing on Friday August 16th. If all goes to plan – the new grandstand will have a ‘soft launch’ to coincide with the Champion Stakes first round on August 23rd. The semi finals take place a week later.
The final will take place a week later on September 6 and will coincide with the grand re-opening of the new re-vamped Millennium Stand. It on a special gala card with enhanced prize money and will also include the heats of the Coral TV Trophy.
Ian Smyth said: “The timetable is all in place and once we are fully open, the new challenge becomes filling it every week. But that will be a nice challenge and one we are all looking forward to.
“I will be particularly pleased for all the owners and trainers. It has been a tough couple of years for them but hopefully it will be worth it in the end.”
The Coral TV Trophy – final September 13 – could be one of the best in years. Staged over the stadium’s 925 metre course it carries a first prize of £10,000 with £1,000 to the runner-up and £500 for the other finalists.
In addition to the best selection of marathon open racers in many years – several of whom are in Saturday’s Crayford Cesarewitch Final – Pat Rosney has recently been trialling back the prolific Looking Sharp who lived up to her name with a 30.18 (500m) trial at Nottingham on Monday and is due back over six bends this weekend.
However the big surprise could be the extended distance debut of Yarmouth track record breaker Roxholme Poppy.
Assistant trainer Mark Keightley said: “She came off with a minor problem from Yarmouth. It wouldn’t stop her racing, but we don’t run our dogs in £200 events. We will sort the injury and hopefully come back fully fit.
“There isn’t a lot in the calendar so we will work towards the TV Trophy. If it turns out that she doesn’t see out the trip, we can always switch her back for six bends for the St.Leger.”