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Simon Mapletoft – HOW THE SIX ALL-WEATHER TRACKS DIFFER

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In his second exclusive blog on All-Weather racing, Sky Sports Racing presenter Simon Mapletoft explains the individual characteristics of Britain’s six All-Weather tracks.

Britain has six All-Weather tracks, and each one offers its own unique test to both horse and rider.

The first All-Weather race took place on Equitrack at Lingfield Park in Surrey on 30th October 1989. It was won by a horse called Niklas Angel, trained in Newmarket by Conrad Allen and ridden by Derby-winning jockey Richard Quinn.

Soon after the first ever race took place on the new Fibresand surface – a mix of silica sand and long fibres – at Southwell in Nottinghamshire. A young Frankie Dettori had the distinction of paying the first ever visit to the winner’s enclosure.

By 1993 racing on Fibresand was also taking place at Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, before Kempton Park in 2006, Chelmsford City two years later and Newcastle in 2016 added to the All-Weather complement.

Racing at Lingfield now takes place on Polytrack, a silica sand and wax based surface fortified by small pieces of rubber and carpet. 

It is the most unique as it is the only track that features a downhill run into a sharp home bend. It’s a tight, left-handed turning track with a relatively short straight. A high draw, particularly over sprint distances, can be a distinct disadvantage.

Lingfield was the home of the All-Weather Championships Finals Day until it switched to Newcastle in 2022 and boasts some of the higher profile races including the Group 3 Winter Derby and Listed races such as the Spring Cup, the Kachy Stakes and the Churchill Stakes.

Southwell, by contrast, has long straights and sweeping bends, offering a fair left-handed test to those racing from the outside stalls. It also has a straight five furlongs and has this year staged three Fast Track Qualifiers for Finals Day on Good Friday.

It’s long-standing Fibresand surface was upgraded to the latest generation of Tapeta in 2021, shortly after state-of-the-art floodlights were erected to enable evening fixtures through the winter months. Similar to Polytrack, Tapeta is also a silica sand surface, enriched with an advanced mix of wax and fibres.

Wolverhampton staged the first ever floodlit horse race in Britain when it’s Fibresand track, which replaced the original turf track, opened at Christmas 1993. Spectators watched from a newly builtpanoramic grandstand.

Early in the millennium that surface was upgraded to Polytrack before it was replaced again in by Tapeta in 2014. Dunstall Park is a tight, left-handed circuit which stages around 80 fixtures a yearfeaturing the Listed Lady Wulfruna Stakes over seven furlongs in March.

In 2006, Kempton Park in London replaced its turf Flat course with a new All-Weather track, opting for a Polytrack surface which remains in place today. It is the only right-handed All-Weather track in the country and features an inner and outer loop. 

Kempton stages some of the highest profile All-Weather races including the Group 3 September Stakes, a number of Listed races and the traditional Rosebery Handicap.

The fifth All-Weather track to open its doors was Chelmsford City, which began life as Great Leighs in 2008. This floodlit Polytrack circuit has been well supported by the top stables in Newmarket due to its close proximity to racing’s headquarters.

Chelmsford’s sweeping bends present a relentless galloping test and has favoured front runners and those racing close to the ‘pace’. 

In 2016, Newcastle’s long-established turf track was replaced by a Tapeta circuit. The original topography of the course was retained, along with the straight mile. It is the only All-Weather track that features this test, made all the more demanding by a steep climb to the finishing line.

Newcastle’s key race on the Flat is the valuable Northumberland Plate, also known locally as the Pitmen’s Derby, and the annual £1 million All-Weather Championships Finals Day re-located to Gosforth Park in 2022.

Since opening, Newcastle has developed a reputation for launching the careers of top classperformers. The great Enable and staying legend Stradivarius both won there as young horses.

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