Surface tension in the land of the kickback

Fresh ground rules are planned to help punters find their way through a sandstorm

All-weather racing is the servants quarters of the Sport of Kings. The hectic, burst-from-the-stalls-and-go-like-the-clappers style of racing on sand recalls Lord Cardigan's day, but owners of runners at the likes of Southwell are more likely to have a scrap-metal business than a stately home.

All-weather racing is the servants quarters of the Sport of Kings. The hectic, burst-from-the-stalls-and-go-like-the-clappers style of racing on sand recalls Lord Cardigan's day, but owners of runners at the likes of Southwell are more likely to have a scrap-metal business than a stately home.

As for the horses who whizz around Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton, it is all part of a day's work to have sand kicked in their faces. That feeling is frequently shared by punters risking their cash on a surface a world away from turf.

Now help is at hand. Not a lot, but a little. The official going on turf tracks has a variety of descriptions, while on all three sand tracks every day is "Groundhog Going Day". It is always, always ''Standard''. Now, it can be revealed, a new five-tier grading system for defining going is being discussed by the Jockey Club and the all-weather tracks.

Michael Prosser, clerk of the course at Southwell, said: ''The aim is to keep punters better informed.'' The system has a figure 3 equating to ''Standard'', while 1 is ''Fast'', 2 ''Faster than standard'', 4 ''Slower than standard'', and 5 ''Slow''.

Prosser stressed that the weather affects the going on a sand surface far differently to turf. Drying winds can make the sand slower. Persistent rain makes the sand particles bind together and quickens the track. It is similar to a beach. Where the sea-swell has been, the sand is firmer. Further up the beach, it's deeper and more tiring to run through.

A growing number of punters feel that all-weather racing is more punter-friendly than turf. The surface is usually more consistent, while running rails are not moved as often as at turf tracks - making analysis of race times more reliable.

But there are negative factors too. The dreaded word ''Standard'' is just one issue. The kickback on sand is the crucial one. Ability to tolerate a sandstorm or, more importantly, be nimble enough to avoid it, sorts out the losers from the winners.

''Some horses just won't face it,'' Tom McLaughlin, a specialist all-weather rider, said. ''At Lingfield the kickback comes up like pebbles. Horses put their heads up and they don't want to face it. They want to get out of the pain.''

McLaughlin went on: ''Riding on sand involves a different technique compared to turf. You need to be fast out of the gate, sitting handy, close-up in the early part of the race, and staying out of the kickback. If you look at the sectional times, you're going an awful lot quicker in the first few furlongs than at the finish. On turf, jockeys are more patient, saving their mounts for the finish.''

Nick Littmoden, a Newmarket-based trainer who has exploited all-weather track prize money very successfully, said: ''Some horses will perform well on turf, but can't transfer that ability to sand. The determining factor is the kickback. Some horses don't seem to mind it, others won't have it at all. There's a haze of sand coming up into their faces.

''Unless they face up to it, they'll retreat and try to dodge it. Pulling horses wide is one way to avoid it.'' Southwell, Littmoden said, has the most kickback of all three tracks, but at Lingfield it ''stings more around the head and eyes''. He added: ''Unless they get into a prominent position I like my runners pulled wide.''

Lingfield's problems intensified following the track's annual refurbishment a month ago. A total of 80,000 tons of sand, plus 40,000 litres of oil, was poured onto the track.

Tim Sprake, one of Britain"s top all-weather riders, said: ''At Lingfield the sand is sticking together more, balling up under the horses' hooves, like snow. It's coming up in clumps hitting riders as well as the horses. In the weighing room you can see the marks on jockeys' shoulders and arms.''

Sprake, though, believes the replenished surface will settle down when winter settles in.

The reason why horses show varying levels of form between the three sand tracks is because the courses are constructed differently. Lingfield, where the surface is Equitrack, uses a silica sand, mixed with oil and sprayed with a chemical to bind it together. Underneath is a firm base of sand.

Wolverhampton and Southwell (both Fibresand) use a coarse sand, mixed with a man-made fibre to hold the grains together. Both tracks have seven or eight inches of sand on top of a tarmac base. Wolverhampton, a newer track, is not as slow as Southwell.

And while Lingfield is cambered all the way round, Southwell is cambered only on its bends. At Wolverhampton, to assist drainage, the tarmac base has a slight camber stretching from the middle out to each side.

Heavy rain and use can shuffle sand across the tracks, making it deeper in some places than others. All-weather racing in Britain is fairly new. Discovering more about its intricacy is vital for punters hoping to be as happy as sand-boys.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements