The track at Wolverhampton is the latest all weather surface to come under fire from trainers, some of whom have decided they will no longer send horses there to race. It makes me wonder whether the Polytrack material used has a definite shelf life.
Last year, the Polytrack at Lingfield was completely replaced after 12 years’ service. Kempton, which has a similar surface, needed substantial remedial work to prevent balling up of the material in below zero conditions. The track there was just seven years old.
They have raced on Polytrack at Wolverhampton for the past nine years, and owners Arena Racing Company carried out refurbishment, again designed to maintain a consistent surface, during October. The work has not met with the approval of trainers. John Gosden has led the criticism, saying, “Arc have got to look at the situation at Wolverhampton very seriously because there are a great number of trainers deeply concerned about it from the viewpoint of the welfare of horses. Arc were trying to do something with the track to reduce the kickback, but the problem is you can’t just start creating hybrid tracks.” He’s not sending any runners there until he sees some improvement.
Chris Wall was more scathing, saying it was time for a new surface and that Arc should "stop wasting money trying to find a quick fix."
The National Trainers’ Federation is trying to assess the extent of the problem, and has already held meetings in Newmarket and Newbury where the topic was raised. Chief executive Rupert Arnold said that some trainers claimed Wolverhampton “was not fit for purpose.”
The NTF says it will pass details of any injuries it is told about to the British Horseracing Authority. To date, ARC says that the number hasn’t increased since the work was carried out. Spokesperson Kate Hills acknowledged the concerns before adding, “Statistics show there is no change in injury rate compared to last year. Safety is paramount and we’re continuing to listen to the views of trainers and jockeys.