Southwell set for Tapeta switch

Arena Racing Company have submitted a planning application to replace the current Fibresand surface at Southwell with Tapeta.

Fibresand has been used at the Nottinghamshire venue since the inception of all-weather racing in 1989 yet despite several regeneration efforts, the time has now come for it to be replaced.

Tapeta, developed by Michael Dickinson and Joan Wakefield, has been in use at Wolverhampton and Newcastle – also owned by ARC – for a number of years and it is also in use around the world.

ARC chief executive, Martin Cruddace, said: “Racing at both Wolverhampton and Newcastle has benefitted hugely from the installation of Tapeta, as we have worked closely with Michael Dickinson, Joan Wakefield and their team on the maintenance and upkeep of both surfaces.

“Tapeta represents the next generation of artificial all-weather racing surface, in terms of its appeal to both trainers and jockeys, and it offers a number of benefits regarding its safety record, relative lack of kickback and fairness for horses.  In addition, it has the ability to handle very low temperatures and significant rainfall.

“The installation of Tapeta will give us an opportunity to look at the flat programme at Southwell and possibly introduce some Fast Track Qualifier races for the All-Weather Championships, for example.

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“This work represents another significant step forward for racing at Southwell, which we intend to be one of the finest all-weather tracks in the world.”

It is expected work will start in the spring and be completed by summer 2021.

Champion trainer John Gosden backed the move and said: “I am delighted that ARC has chosen to make this investment in such difficult times. I have always thought that Newcastle is the best all-weather track in the UK because of its configuration and surface.

“The Tapeta surface is both safe and true and Southwell’s configuration is akin to many of the top racecourses in the USA. It will greatly benefit from the switch to Tapeta and I look forward to having many runners there.”

Mark Johnston was also in favour and said: “This is fantastic news. Southwell is faultless in terms of scale and layout and, with a Tapeta surface, it can be an all-weather racetrack of the highest international standard.”

Scott Dixon’s stables are very close to the track and he is excited at trying out the new surface.

“Obviously we train on track, so I look at it very positively because ultimately we’ll have a fantastic surface to train on every day,” he said.

“Fibresand has been very good to us over the years, we’ve had a lot of horses that have been Fibresand specific and course specialists. We’ve done well on it, but time moves on, things improve and Tapeta is regarded as one of the finest surfaces in the world.

“Southwell is a galloping track, very fair and is probably the best all-weather track in the country in terms of its layout so I think it is a very positive move for us. I look forward to it.”

However, not all trainers believe it is a good move.

Southwell regular Mick Appleby, who is based 43 miles away at Oakham, would prefer to see an American-style dirt surface there.

“I don’t think it’s the right decision. Yes, I agree Fibresand is now outdated and needs replacing,” he said.

“I don’t think Tapeta is the answer. For me, personally, I think they should change it to a dirt track.

“We’ve got no dirt tracks in the UK. We’ve got nothing anywhere near what they’ve got in America when Fibresand goes.

“You’d have thought it would have made more sense to put a dirt track down and get some better races on and get some Breeders’ Cup qualifiers and qualifiers for Dubai and things like that.

“What’s the point in having three Tapeta tracks?”