Here's why Southwell's Fibresand surface should not be changed
Jack Haynes argues why the potential switch to a Tapeta surface at Southwell would be the wrong move
Who doesn’t love a day at the beach?
Southwell may have its critics and some trainers steer clear of the Nottinghamshire venue, but the Fibresand surface most certainly serves its purpose and still offers a different dimension to the ever-increasing amount of all-weather racing.
Imagine if every race on the turf was run on the same going. We wouldn’t be far off that scenario if Fibresand is to be replaced by Tapeta at Southwell, which would leave just Polytrack and Tapeta surfaces at the six all-weather courses in Britain.
Variety is the spice of life and the Fibresand surface, along with the nature of the course, is reliable in ensuring a fair race in which, most of the time, the best horses tend to come out on top, a point made by Newmarket trainer David Simcock.
Unlike the downhill run at Lingfield and sweeping bends into the straight at Kempton, Chelmsford and Wolverhampton, the long home straight at Southwell results in less interference towards the end of races and a greater emphasis on stamina. The same can be said of Newcastle, with Simcock stating he would rather see Arc run their big races at one of the two tracks. It’s hard to disagree.
Field sizes on the Fibresand are always healthy and there is no reason to believe this would change once racing under lights begins at the track next year.
Pace is another key aspect of all-weather racing with a steadily-run contest at Southwell a rarity. Gaining a good position in the early stages of a race is important at all courses, but it’s arguably most vital at Southwell where all chance can be lost in the first furlong if a horse resents the kickback.
Far from it, in fact, with General Tufto, Tatting, Monsieur Jimmy and The Lock Master among many Fibresand favourites who finish with a flourish in the straight. That's without mentioning course legend La Estrella, who could win from the front, mid-division or out the back.
Racing should not be afraid of change to widen its appeal, but a potential switch to Tapeta at Southwell would lessen the attraction and variety of all-weather racing.