Henlow will close for greyhound racing following the meeting on Sunday January 21 writes Floyd Amphlett.
The decision was inevitable following a court decision last month, though the short notice will be disappointing to owners, trainers and greyhound supporters.
Promoter Kevin Boothby said: “The first point I should make is that I am absolutely gutted but we have reached the end of the road.
“We have been attempting to renew the lease over several years and felt we had a strong legal case, even though the judge disagreed. The recent court case has cost in the region of £150K and although we stand by that initial view, there is no guarantee that we would win an appeal.
“In terms of our local trainers, all are welcome at our other tracks. The majority are already indicating that they will transfer to Towcester where Graham Payne, one of the three Henlow on-site trainers, will have a new range in the stable block.
“Jason Bloomfield already has another kennel in March and I am still waiting to hear Steve Fletcher’s plans. I gather that a couple of the smaller kennels may want to run some at Suffolk Downs.
“We only have around 60-80 Henlow based graders anyway and many of the trainers already race at Towcester. There is no welfare issue.”
Boothby took over Henlow in October 2004 with the place on its knees. The running of the stadium had been briefly taken over by publican Jock McNaughton and when he couldn’t make it pay, the site owner Tony McDonnell attempted, and failed miserably, to make a success of it.
Although it was his first venture into track ownership, Boothby somehow managed to keep the track from closure, at one point being forced to remortgage his home.
He shared his time between Henlow and his other businesses to a point that he personally took charge of the track preparation (and learned some valuable lessons along the way).
He invested in a new restaurant which proved to be the saviour of the place though on at least one occasion in the lead-up to Christmas, they catered to a full restaurant of partygoers, with less than 35 greyhounds spread between 12 races.
The emergence of the media rights war gave the stadium a second chance with SIS seizing the chance to enlist of the tracks not wanted by the Greyhound Media Group (or them originally!).
Plans for 2024 had been dependent on the court judgement. Had things turned out more favourably, it was Boothby’s intention to re-open the restaurant, bring back major events including the Bedfordshire Derby and become a popular nightspot for the ever growing town which has quadrupled in size since he first set foot on the place.
Boothby said: “So we have three Sunday meetings to go and I hope many of the people who have enjoyed Henlow over the years will support us on those final meetings.
“Entries for this week close tomorrow (Thursday) and we are planning a bit of a wake for the final meeting with what has become a bit of a tradition, pizza and chips.
“We have to be off-site by April 5 and we will have to dismantle the whole stadium including the restaurant.
“I can’t tell you how sad this makes me, I love Henlow and I honestly think there is still a place in greyhound racing for a track like it.
“But we will move on and put all our energies into the other three.”