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Southwell set to change to Tapeta and ditch UK's only Fibresand surface

Southwell: racing has taken place on a Fibresand surface since 1989
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Leading trainers John Gosden and Mark Johnston have given their backing for plans to convert Southwell to a Tapeta surface next year.

The Arena Racing Company (Arc), which owns Southwell, has submitted a planning application to replace the only Fibresand racing surface in Britain with Tapeta, which has been in place at Wolverhampton since 2014 and Newcastle since 2016. If permission is granted it is anticipated work will start in the spring and be completed by summer 2021.

Horses have raced on a Fibresand surface at Southwell since the track's inception in 1989, with course legends Tempering (22 wins), Kylkenny (17) and La Estrella, China Castle and Elton Ledger (16) showing a particular fondness for the unique racing surface. But after renewing the surface numerous times Arc said it had “come to the end of its operational life”.

Gosden has had just six runners at Southwell this year compared to 44 runners at Newcastle but is now likely to become a more frequent visitor to the Nottinghamshire track if the plans proceed.

John Gosden: big fan of Tapeta surface

The champion trainer said: “I'm delighted that Arc has chosen to make this investment in such difficult times. I've always thought 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.”

Johnston, who has saddled 240 winners at Southwell, second only to David Barron's 295, 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.”

Developed by Michael Dickinson and Joan Wakefield of Tapeta Footings, the surface is also used at other racecourses and training centres around the world, including Presque Isle Downs, Golden Gate Fields and the newly installed Turfway Park in the US as well as Woodbine in Canada.

Arc chief executive Martin Cruddace said: “Racing at both Wolverhampton and Newcastle has benefited 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.

Arc chief executive Martin Cruddace: big plans for Southwell

“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. 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.”

All-weather racing surfaces in Britain and Ireland

Chelmsford Polytrack
Dundalk Polytrack
Kempton Polytrack
Lingfield Polytrack
Newcastle Tapeta
Southwell Fibresand > Tapeta 2021
Wolverhampton Tapeta

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Southwell is faultless in terms of scale and layout and, with a Tapeta surface, it can be an all-weather track of the highest international standard

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