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Simon Mapletoft Feature

The Good Racing Co - Horse Race

In the first of an exclusive series of blogs on All-Weather racing, Sky Sports Racing presenter Simon Mapletoft explains what the term means and the increasingly significant part it plays in the sport in Britain.

WHAT IS ALL-WEATHER RACING?

All-Weather racing was born in the autumn of 1989 when Flat racing on a sand surface in Britain took place for the first time at Lingfield Park in Surrey and Southwell in Nottinghamshire.

Lingfield unveiled a surface called Equitrack, a mix of silica sand and oil-based polymers, while at Southwell a new surface called Fibresand provided a mix of sand and polymer fibres. Both were designed to withstand freezing temperatures.

Initially All-Weather racing catered for low grade horses, providing action in extreme weather conditions when turf fixtures were vulnerable to freezing conditions.

Over the past three decades, the code has evolved to account for around a third of the UK fixture list, growing in credibility and attracting a better grade of horses as more modern surfaces have been developed.

Today All-Weather racing takes place throughout the year at six different racecourses: Lingfield, Southwell, Newcastle, Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, Kempton Park in London and Chelmsford City in Essex. All but Lingfield have floodlights, enabling action to take place in the evenings.

Polytrack, a more modern wax-based surface, replaced the Equitrack at Lingfield and was the surface of choice at Chelmsford, Kempton and Wolverhampton, until the latter switched to Tapeta – a world leader among artificial surfaces created by former Gold Cup-winning trainer Michael Dickinson.

A most technologically advanced wax-based surface, Tapeta was also put down at Newcastle when its All-Weather track was created in 2016 and at Southwell in 2021. Southwell became the latest track to install floodlights the previous year, similar to those at Twickenham and the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

In 2013 Arena Racing Company, who own Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton, enhanced the credibility of the code by launching the All-Weather Championships – a six-month season of racing culminating in a £1 million Finals Day featuring races in six different categories.

Since then, the championships have gone from strength to strength, beginning each year in mid-October and ending on Good Friday with valuable finals for qualifying horses in the Sprint, Mile, 3YO, Fillies and Mares, Marathon and Middle-Distance categories.

Horses qualify for the Good Friday showpiece by winning one of 24 Fast Track Qualifiers – four in each category – which guarantee the winner a place on Finals Day. Others can quality by racing at least three times during the winter season, but only the highest rated horses make the cut in each final.

In my next Blog I will discuss the differences in the six All-Weather tracks.

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