ONE FIRM has taken a clear lead in the £30 million chase for the latest in a pack of racecourse developments.
Four firms came under starter's orders for the redevelopment of Doncaster racecourse, home of the world's oldest classic horse race, the St Leger, which was first run in 1776.
Going down were Laing O'Rourke, ISG InteriorExterior, Shepherd and Sir Robert McAlpine. But odds dramatically shortened on ISG InteriorExterior when it emerged the firm was now the only one in discussions with the client.
One rival said: 'We believe that we have missed out on this one. There is a strong rumour going round that ISG are the ones who have won it so I expect they're the ones being talked to.' Another said: 'Nothing has been signed yet but ISG is negotiating with the client and is the only one still in for the job.' The South Yorkshire course is owned by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, which advertised for a partner for the redevelopment. Arena Leisure was chosen and is now working with the council to create a plan that will cause least disruption to the racing calendar.
The course, on Town Moor, is a group one track and hosts 29 race fixtures throughout the year. The biggest concern is whether or not it will be able to host the St Leger, held in September every year, while work is in progress.
York racecourse, 35 miles away, has been suggested as an alternative venue.
Two options are currently being considered by the council. The first is to refurbish the current facilities, including the grandstand and exhibition centre.
The other is to demolish entirely and build new facilities. Work should start at the turn of the year and be completed by 2007. Further work at the racecourse will also go out to tender soon, including construction of a new hotel and the relocation of a blood-stock facility.
ISG InteriorExterior has already bagged the £40 million fit-out deal at Ascot and built a new grandstand at Newmarket in 2002. Laing O'Rourke, which has missed out on the Doncaster deal, is carrying out the £34 million revamp to Aintree and Sir Robert McAlpine won the £20 million deal to redevelop the course at York.