Course regular Mullen urges Southwell to stick with Fibresand
Southwell regular Andrew Mullen has urged the track to stick with Fibresand rather than twist with Tapeta as jockeys gave their views on the mooted surface change at the Nottinghamshire track.
Few riders visited Southwell more than Mullen last year, where he rode 14 winners from 113 rides on the Fibresand and he has no doubt the surface plays a crucial role within British racing.
“We definitely need to keep a Fibresand surface in the country as without it all-weather races will end up with diminishing fields,” said Mullen.
"There are already a couple of Tapeta surfaces and Polytracks, whereas this is unique. It gives us more opportunities to run more horses.
"Don’t get me wrong, it would be a great Tapeta track, but are you killing it for trainers whose horses only do well here? Listening to a few of the other lads I think they’d be keen to stick as a Fibresand track because it gives everyone a chance.”
Trainers polled last week also appeared rather more in favour of keeping Fibresand, and the variety it offers, than ditching it.
Mullen, meanwhile, added that another floodlit track would inevitably mean more evening fixtures and longer days for stable staff, and called for earlier finishes.
He said: “It’s okay for jockeys, they get out and into the car by 9.30pm, but stable staff don’t get away before 10.30pm and then go 60mph back home. Then they get the horses away and fed at home before an early start the next morning.
“I think there should definitely be a deadline for racing, perhaps 8.30pm. Friday, Saturday and Sunday fixtures are geared around punters and there’s no consideration for stable staff. Crazy hours like that is why it’s so hard to get people into racing.
"Everyone is making money out of it apart from the poor lads and lasses going racing. They need to be looked after.”
Stevie Donohoe, another in the remain camp, urged the decision-makers to put horses before betting.
“I hear everyone talking about betting angles, which is ridiculous,” he said. “It’s for the horses. Fibresand is a forgiving surface and suits horses who have broken down in the past as they let themselves down on it. It serves a purpose.”
Robert Havlin is more open-minded to change and could see quality improving should Southwell move away from Fibresand.
“If it was Tapeta or Polytrack it would be a fabulous track but Fibresand does serve a purpose and I’m kind of 50-50,” he said. “At the moment it’s one-dimensional but if they changed the surface you could ride any sort of race.
“The dynamics of this track are completely different to the other all-weather tracks and, if it was to change, I’d say it would get a lot of support from big trainers wanting to run nice maidens here. You wouldn’t attract that type of horse at the moment.”
Joe Fanning is similarly placed and said: “Fibresand is something different and serves a purpose but Tapeta is the best surface by far. If they don’t leave it how it is I hope they put in Tapeta.”
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