Newcastle: all-weather replaces the Flat turf course
PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
A NEW era dawns on Tuesday when Newcastle stages an eight-race Flat card on its new Tapeta surface just two and a half years after plans for an all-weather circuit were first unveiled.
All-weather racing has been a very long time coming to the north of England, and Newcastle was by no means everyone’s favoured venue. However, 26 years after Lingfield and Southwell took the plunge just days apart in the autumn of 1989 it is here at last, and many are predicting that it will be the best track of its type in the country.
Newcastle is the third new all-weather track to open in a decade, following Kempton in 2006 and Great Leighs, now Chelmsford City, in 2008, and it brings to six the number of tracks now staging it, Wolverhampton having taken that step back in 1993.
However, the percentage of the fixture list taking place on the all-weather has almost levelled out in in recent years, this year’s 315 from a total of 1,482 representing 21.3 per cent, compared to 20.1 per cent in 2010.
Catterick, Musselburgh, Sedgefield and Wetherby all figured among the other tracks mooted as suitable for all-weather racing in the north, and the Arena Racing Company, which owns Newcastle, has had to negotiate a rocky road in order to get to this point, which has come at the expense of a historic turf track widely regarded as among the best in the country.
‘It rides brilliantly’
Two years ago an online petition organised by the National Trainers Federation calling for a halt to Arc’s plans surged towards the 250 mark within 24 hours, yet 105 horses have been declared for the first of 2016’s 17 all-weather fixtures, among them those trained by some of the concept’s most vociferous critics, including Mark Johnston, Brian Ellison and Hugo Palmer.
Locally born Ellison, who has seven runners for Tuesday’s meeting, said: “I’ve been there a couple of times and it rode brilliantly. It will be the best all-weather track in the country. It rides fantastic and I would think any horse will go on it, whether it wants soft ground or good ground.
“It was pointless moaning about it as it was going to happen, and whether people like it or not, they have to support it.”
Read more about the first day of all-weather racing at Newcastle in Tuesday’s Racing Post – or download the iPad edition from 8pm on Monday
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