James Fanshawe hailed the change of surface “a great move” for Southwell after seeing Viola claim the feature event at the track’s first meeting run on Tapeta on Tuesday.
Fibresand had been in place at the Nottinghamshire venue since 1989, but that was removed following racing on August 15 and replaced with the new surface.
Multiple Group One-winning trainer Fanshawe views the switch as a huge positive.
He told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s been a great move. The track is obviously going to take a bit of settling in, but for Southwell to have invested in a new surface is absolutely great.
“It’s a lot closer for us than some of the other Tapeta tracks. I haven’t got that many to run on the all-weather, but I’ll definitely be having some runners here.
“It’s not just the surface – it’s a very well laid out track with the surface as well.”
With a total prize fund of £40,000 up for grabs, a field of seven runners went to post for the Watch Racing Free Online At Coral Winter Oaks Trial Fillies’ Handicap.
Roger Varian’s Timeless Soul was the 3-1 favourite, while Ed Dunlop saddled Virgin Snow – a daughter of his brilliant racemare Snow Fairy.
The Mark Johnston-trained Alba Rose, a half-sister to Gold Cup winner Subjectivist and high-class stablemate Sir Ron Priestley, also faced the starter – but it was the Fanshawe runner that prevailed.
Ridden by Daniel Muscutt, Viola was a 9-2 chance off the back of finishing third in Listed company at Lingfield in October and knuckled down to see off Alba Rose by a length and three-quarters.
The winner could now be targeted at the Coral Winter Oaks at Lingfield in January, although Fanshawe admits a drop back in distance from a mile and a half to a mile and a quarter might not be ideal.
He added: “It’s always difficult to know where you are with fillies at this time of year because they should be hibernating, but she’s really tough this filly.
“She’s been very consistent and obviously enjoyed the surface tonight. It was a good prize.
“She’s got a bit of class, so we’ll just have to see how she is. She’s got a good record round Lingfield, but ideally she wants a mile and a half or a mile and six – she stays.”
Clive Cox was delighted to see Fernando Rah get back on the winning trail in the £30,000 #betyourway At Betway Handicap.
A son of the trainer’s top-class sprinter Lethal Force, the three-year-old claimed back-to-back novice victories in July and had been placed twice since in handicap company.
Cox trained just a handful of runners on the Fibresand at Southwell, but hopes to be a more regular visitor after seeing Fernando Rah justify 4-1 favouritism with a three-length success under John Fahy.
He said: “I’m over the moon. He’s always promised to be a good horse.
“We’ve had to tweak a few things as he’s had issues with the stalls. This will do him the world of good from a confidence point of view and he could be an exciting prospect over the winter.
“I’m really excited about having runners at Southwell and I’m delighted to get a winner there tonight, especially with the prize-money that’s offer, which makes a big difference.”
Kieran Shoemark was full of praise for the track after winning the opening race aboard the Charlie Hills-trained Carausius (17-2).
He said: “The surface feels very new, which obviously it is, and I think it’s going to need a bit of time to bed in. We rode it like the old Southwell – we got racing very early and it was a slog home.
“I think it’s got the potential to be one of top all-weather tracks in the country, especially the structure of the racecourse – a nice, big, galloping track.
“I just think we need to give it a little bit of time.”