Jockeys and trainers give their verdict on the new Fontwell bend
Fontwell clerk of the course Ed Arkell said on Friday he was pleased
with feedback from racing professionals after the track's all-weather bend was officially used for the first time on Thursday.
The West Sussex track made the decision to replace a furlong and a half section of track with Fibresand after a spate of incidents in 2016 in which horses slipped on the bottom bend.
Arkell said: "All the reaction was very positive, from jockeys and trainers – they seemed happy to me. We listened to people last year and came to the decision it was for the best."
Kickback the only issue
A couple of trainers said on Friday they believed the ripping up of turf might have been unnecessary – while aesthetically the change may take some getting used to – although feedback was generally positive.
The severity of the kickback was raised by a few racing professionals, but Arkell said: "It was the Fibresand's first run out and it went well. The kickback was the only slight issue and that will settle down with time.
"It will have been a bit dusty yesterday given how new it is and how warm it was. We're learning and in the long term there may be more we can do. For example, we may react differently between races and treat it differently to help keep the kickback to a minimal. It's a case of trial and error."
Fontwell feedback . . .
Peter Bowen, trainer
The boys [Sean and James Bowen] rode there yesterday and had no concerns. They hardly noticed the difference when changing on to the sand and it works fine at Kempton. Safety should be the main concern.
They’ve done a very good job and I can’t see any negatives. The all-weather bend is bound to be of benefit in the winter. It’s still quite sharp and rides the same, maybe even slightly quicker, but it should be much safer. There was a bit of kickback, but that’s the way it is.
Bryony Frost, jockey
It’s spot on and the turn was much smoother and level, the horses found so much more grip. Before the change, horses tended to get very packed up there, and coming off the turf on to the sand you could hardly tell the difference. I think it might be even better in the winter and from a jockey’s point of view we could certainly use it to our advantage as the corners do get very chopped up in the winter.
Paul Henderson, trainer
It seems all right to me and the jockeys didn’t seem to mind it, although I didn’t think the turf bend was that bad in the first place. It won’t change my thinking when sending runners there. Jockeys were mentioning the kickback, but it didn’t cause any significant issues.
Martin Keighley, trainer
The jockeys I used yesterday all said it rode better, and the corner seemed a lot safer, which was the main concern. The kickback looks to be quite bad but that may be something they can sort over time. I’d definitely say there are more positives than negatives.
I wasn’t there yesterday but when I first heard about it around 18 months ago I rang Ed Arkell straight away to plead with him not to do it. Jumps tracks, for example Kempton, have been ruined by all-weather strips and I've had horses come back with niggling injuries. They're the sort of injuries we won’t pick up straight away, but the morning afterwards we can tell the horse isn’t quite right. They’ve spent a shed load of money on it but there was rarely an issue there in the first place. For now, I’ll have to be slightly cautious with which horses go there and will very much be running horses there on a trial and error basis.
Neil Mulholland, trainer
I was very happy with it, they’ve done a brilliant job and I'm certainly not complaining. It rode very well and it won’t change our attitude towards sending horses there. They could try to flatten the sand further so there’s a bit less kickback, but that’s just nitpicking.