A Guide to All Weather Courses

With autumn fast approaching the start of the all-weather season looms into the horizon. From now until November (the official start of the winter season) there will be a steady increase in races at the all-weather courses. With that in mind it’s a good idea for us to familiarise ourselves with each course and what is required to win at each course.
There are at the time of writing four operational all-weather tracks in the UK Lingfield being the oldest followed by Southwell. Wolverhampton turned to sand in 1993 and the all-weather course at Kempton was built in 2006.
Great Leighs is the latest of the all-weather racecourses, although the course was placed into administration and its temporary racing licence revoked on 16th January 2009 and a new buyer is yet to be found.
Each course’s racing surface differs slightly and has its own characteristics. There are two types of surfaces used in the UK for all-weather racing:-


Polytrack - Lingfield, Wolverhampton, Kempton, Great Leighs
A kind of rubberised sand, polytrack minimises the impact of ‘kickback’, (loose particles flying up behind a galloping horse).  Polytrack is a much faster surface than fibresand., the standard going is similar to good / good to firm on the turf.


Fibresand - Southwell
A looser, more demanding surface compared with polytrack that produces a lot of kickback. You can literally watch the course specialist bullies kicking sand in the faces of the runners behind. The going on fibresand is comparable with softer going on turf.
Both surfaces are regularly worked by machine to even out and flatten out the surface. This can, along with extremes in weather (mainly sharp frosts or high temperatures after heavy rain), produce temporary draw biases that we as punters must be careful of.

 

Wolverhampton

An oval left -handed track with long forgiving straights. Races over 7f are quickly on the first corner but a longer straight makes early position less crucial than at shorter distances. The surface is much firmer than fibresand but is also more taxing than at Kempton or Lingfield, making stamina and form over further elsewhere an advantage. Expect a strong gallop with horses wanting to get in a good position so as not to be caught out wide from the final bend. A lot of front runners will be caught out over mid to long distances while horse need to fight for good early position in sprints. Look for runners with proven course form and avoid runners steeping up in trip.

 

Southwell

Another oval left -handed track, with long straights and sweeping bends. A lot of kickback here that can make life difficult for those behind. 5f races are straight all the way and getting to the front is vital. At 6f runners are quickly on the first bend so position is everything. The testing nature of the surface makes stamina vital (especially after a hard frost or in a strong headwind) as fields usually end up strung out. Again look for solid course form from horses that look capable of running further.

Lingfield

An almost triangular, left –handed track, with sharp corners and a short finishing straight. Races over 7f and 1m have a longer run to the first bend, while races at 1m2f have shorter run to the first bend. There’s a downhill run into the final bend and the field tends to fan out wide off the final bend. Expect a lot of tactical runs and horses held up until the final bend – meaning horses can often win with deceivingly low speed figures.

 

Kempton

A wide and flat oval galloping track with long straights and sweeping bends. The most consistent all-weather surface over the last few seasons, Kempton is not as specialised as the other tracks. Turf form transfers here more than any of the other all-weather courses. Beware the trap of favouring the higher draw too much as horses can win from anywhere here.



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