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Reg racing plan back on track?
TEN years ago this week, Reg Bond picked up his copy of the then Yorkshire Evening Press to find himself at the centre of a media storm.
The tyre master, almost as famous for his string of racehorses as for his multi-million worldwide distribution company Bond International, had unveiled a £30 million plan to build the first all-weather racetrack in the north.
It was proposed to transform the Pocklington airfield, close to Bond’s offices, into a floodlit track with “modern viewing facilities”.
Bond found the phone was soon ringing off the hook, and the project didn’t quite work out the way he had planned.
“It was confidential,” he explained. “We wanted to say ‘if you want to build something, would people want to use it? What we did was ask, at a Malton Trainers’ meeting, would anyone be interested in using it?
“We didn’t know whether it would work and the next thing I was on the front of The Press, standing in front of a stack of tyres, and the phone didn’t stop ringing.
“It was quite interesting. When we talked about it, I didn’t know who owned the land, and I didn’t know who I would be talking to. Certainly, if I had owned the land and this had come out in the front page of The Press I would have been thinking ‘what the bloody hell is he up to?’”
Eight months later, Bond’s grand design was ‘shelved’ with the businessman saying he had a number of personal commitments which meant he couldn’t devote himself to the project.
But the idea didn’t die.
Now, a decade later, the land where he saw his dream of an all-weather circuit first realised is on the market and Bond wants to explore the possibilities once more.
Note the word ‘possibilities’.
“It’s 70 acres and just off the A1079,” he said. “I don’t know whether or not a track would go on it. I talked to a couple of people at the Gimcrack (Dinner, held at York Racecourse last month) and they thought it was interesting.
“I think people would be interested. Financially, it needs a banker. I’ve come back to it because the land is for sale. But it’s something I want to consider. I’m looking for someone who has got some money to invest in something like that. I don’t even know if someone would want to go into partnership. What I am trying to do is make someone a business.
“There is a business there. If we look at Wolverhampton, it’s a nice planned track. There’s going to be a hotel built here. We’ve already got an airstrip, which the helicopters could land on. A lot of the facilities are already around us.”
Bond, pictured, may need to move fast if his fledgling plans aren’t to be scuppered at the earliest of stages.
The land, marketed by York property firm Savills, is just under 71 acres and is on the market for a guide price of £550,000.
It is also under offer.
Regardless of whether Bond’s idea ever gets off the ground, he is still convinced at the need for the north to have an all-weather facility.
He would appear to have a point. Southwell, near Nottingham, is the closest to those trainers transporting horses down from Yorkshire and beyond, while Wolverhampton, Lingfield and Kempton can be a big trek – in distance as well as in cost, with many all-weather races offering comparatively low prize money.
Bond explained: “We have just been down to Wolverhampton with Alfred Hutchinson. He won on Boxing Day and we took him down on New Year’s Day and he won again.
“The cost of going down is a lot. I have my own vehicles, so I don’t have a third party involved, but a lot of trainers haven’t got transport.
“Ladies Are Forever came second down at Lingfield three weeks ago. It was our transport down and she got second prize but it isn’t very good prize money. We all know that.
“If you take Kempton and Lingfield, it is difficult to get from here down there. On Boxing Day it took us five and a half hours to get to the track because of the traffic around Wolverhampton. It’s normally three and a half.
“But you have still got a three and a half hour drive and it’s the same coming back. The driver has to have a rest for a couple of hours and that’s Wolverhampton – among the nearest we have got. Nothing might come of this. But if I was Jim Goldie taking a horse all the way down to Kempton, or Lingfield, I’d think it’s a long way to go from Scotland.
“Let’s have a look.”
A Grand win for Bealby
Chris Bealby is dreaming of Aintree after Chac Du Cadran (11-2) galloped his rivals into submission in the North Yorkshire Grand National Handicap Chase at Catterick.
While the seven-year-old would need to continue his sharp progression to get into the big race in April, the way he jumped and galloped his way to victory suggested he may be a horse for the future in similar marathon contests.
Bealby said: “Where we go next I’m not quite sure, it depends what the handicapper does – he might get into an Eider Chase or something like that.”