All weather racing is now an integral part of the flat scene and the synthetic surfaces allow equine action to take place in pretty much all climates and whilst the turf may have fallen foul of the elements, the all weather surface enables race meetings to go ahead regardless of the conditions.
Even though the odd meeting is abandoned due to safety concerns, the all weather tracks host hundreds of meetings a season on the flat to allow punters to have a bet in the bookmakers on the cold afternoons, when everything has succumbed to the adverse weather conditions.
With four all weather tracks in the UK and one in Ireland, it certainly gives more chance for the lower echelons of the flat world to get a race and it has grown in popularity over the years, but some still hold reservations about the sphere.
The four racecourses in the UK that currently offer all weather action are Lingfield Park, Kempton Park, Southwell and Wolverhampton, with the aforementioned first three tracks all adding the All Weather track to their turf courses that also offer racing. Dundalk provide the all weather action in Ireland and the quintet will hold an array of meetings during the Winter months and some jockeys and trainers use that time to try and gain as many winners as possible, as the leading lights in the flat division tend to concentrate solely on the turf scene.
However, there are some decent races run on the all weather and the highlight of the season comes at Lingfield Park where trainers send some classy individuals to the Winter Derby, which actually is now rated as a Group Three contest and has a decent prize going to the connections of the winner.
The Lingfield Derby Trial and Oaks Trial have also been run on the Polytrack after the turf track was deemed unfit for racing, so the surface can certainly accommodate some of the top stars who are looking to use it as a springboard to bigger and better things on the turf, whilst Dundalk is another holds Group action on its all weather surface. Opened in 2007, Dundalks highlight on the calendar is Group Three Diamond Stakes, which makes up part of the Breeders Cup Challenge and there are a plethora of Listed events throughout the season.
Southwell is widely regarded as the toughest, stamina-sapping surface of the five all weather tracks and its fibresand certainly tests out a horse, but it can often see specialists on the surface rack up a number of wins at the track, but they can then struggle to repeat that on the Polytrack surfaces at the other venues.
Many people will still question the need for all weather racing, as predominantly it accommodates low grade horses who are far from consistent, but the backers of the division will see it gives a chance for flat racing to take place throughout the year and allows bookmakers to show live racing from the UK & Ireland in sub-zero temperatures, when all the meetings have been abandoned due to inclement weather.
L A McKenna
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