04/17/2008 11:00PM

New track opening in Britain

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Great Leighs will become the first new racecourse in Britain to open its doors in 81 years on Sunday when the suburban London track will run seven races on its left-handed Polytrack oval.

Not since the jumps track at Taunton in the southwest of England opened its gates in 1927 have Britons had an opening day at a new track. Yet this first meeting at Great Leighs will not be its official opener. Located 30 miles northeast of London, the track has been plagued by problems. It was originally scheduled to open last spring but failed to pass muster with the British Horseracing Authority and had to sell its assigned dates to other tracks.

Even now its grandstand is still not completed. On Sunday, and at its next five meetings through May 13, attendance will be limited to no more than 350 invited guests. Only three bookmakers are expected on the grandstand apron, casting doubt on the accuracy of the starting prices, i.e., the official odds. Great Leighs's official opening day, when the general public will be allowed to pay its way in, is scheduled for May 28.