A BOOKIE has paid £228,500 for one of the best pitches in Britain at York Racecourse.

Wetherby-based bookmaker Joe Huddlestone placed a successful bid for the number one Tattersalls pitch in the final minutes of bidding during a live online auction on Sunday evening.

He bought it from Gregory Hughes, based in Newry, Northern Ireland, who paid £225,000 for the prime pitch nine years ago.

Mr Huddlestone said he had gone 'way over the top' with his bid because such pitches did not come up very often.

"I realise I have paid plenty, but I love York and I wanted it," he said.

"I think it is indicative of a strong market for top pitches at the best tracks because nobody wants to sell them."

He said pitches at less popular racecourses in Yorkshire were "virtually worthless" and nobody wanted them.

He revealed that he already had pitch number 6 in Tattersalls and also pitch number 19 in the Rails, and he would review whether to keep all three in the long term.

Mr Huddlestone added that he was looking forward to the course's next big meeting, the Ebor, later this month.

Tim Moore, chief executive of the Association of Gambling on Tracks, which organised the auction on its website, said he believed the prestige and position of the pitch were primarily responsible for the price.

"Bookmakers think York is a very good track, business is strong there and the course is run well," he said.

"Pitches like this don't come up very often and so there is a premium to be paid for the fact you might not see another one like this for a while."

Racecourse spokesman James Brennan said it was pleased that the attractiveness of the pitch and the course had attracted such interest and such a high bid.

Mr Hughes was unavailable for comment yesterday but is understood to have decided to sell up because of the chore of travelling regularly over from Northern Ireland.