The Northern and Arena Racing Group owned by the Reuben Brothers has announced that Hereford Racecourse (pictured) is to be closed down at the end of the year.
And in news that will rock British horseracing, Folkestone Racecourse is also set to shut its doors at the end of 2012, although its owners hope to reopen the track.
Folkestone's future depends on plans to redevelop the site with the building of around 800 houses being approved.
Hereford, where racing was first recorded in 1771, will be the first course to close since Great Leighs lost its licence in 2009, although hopes remain that the sport will return there. Before then Stockton was the last track to be lost permanently in 1981.
The courses' fixtures in 2013 will be redistributed among the other tracks in the group.
When Northern Racing's owners the Reuben Brothers bought Arena Leisure in March it created Britain's largest racecourse group, accounting for around 40 per cent of fixtures in the UK.
Tony Kelly, managing director of the enlarged Group, said: "Hereford is owned by Herefordshire County Council and run under a lease arrangement.
"Attempts to extend the lease, which has 17 years remaining, have been unsuccessful. Despite being unviable for several years we have supported the racecourse but much-needed investment, required to breathe new life into the racecourse, cannot be justified in the absence of a long-term future for the business.
"Folkestone suffers from out-dated facilities and has been the subject of detailed discussion between the previous management, Arena Leisure, and Shepway District Council for several years now.
"The proposal for the site incorporated significant residential development, which would have enabled a new racecourse to be constructed with much enhanced amenities.
"However, these plans have been delayed following the recent Examination in Public of the local plan. Discussions will continue with Shepway District Council in the hope that there will be approval of development plans which would secure the future of the racecourse. If they succeed, work to reconfigure the racecourse could commence in 2013.
"Every effort to continue trading at these racecourses has been explored but it is with regret that a variety of circumstances means that this is no longer possible, therefore both Hereford and Folkestone racecourses will therefore cease trading at the end of the 2012 season.
"The fixtures will be transferred to other racecourses within the group, where we will be able to offer increased prize-money and better quality facilities for connections and racegoers alike."
Richard Wayman, Chief Executive of the ROA, said: “The ROA is the first to say that there is no place for unprofitable racecourses that are therefore unable to offer a fair and reasonable return to owners and other horsemen. That said, it is impossible not to feel some sadness at the loss of these courses and both will be missed.”
Paul Bittar, Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Authority, said: “This decision is a matter for Northern Racing and Arena Leisure. We recognise and respect the commercial pressures that lie behind it.
“While British racing is immensely popular on many levels, and enjoyed record attendances last year, the fact is that the sport's financial model remains badly outdated. This undoubtedly makes life very difficult for all who depend on the sport for their living and it also impacts upon racecourses, particularly smaller ones.
“We are encouraged to learn that the fixtures transferred as a result of the closures will benefit from increased prize-money, but the priority for the whole sport remains the modernisation of our funding mechanism to underpin the future of British Racing and ensure a fair return for all participants.”
27 July 2012