Racing: Hurdlers forced to take sand seriously

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The Independent Online
THE PANTOMIME season for hurdle racing on sand came to an early end yesterday when new- style obstacles were jumped for the first time at Lingfield Park, writes Chris Corrigan.

The new hurdles replace a flimsy, knock-me-down type that made races farcical. Leaders jumped the old plastic obstacles, frequently flattening them, followed by a pack of horses watching for the gaps to run through.

Based on a French design, the new 3ft 6in hurdles for all- weather tracks resemble a miniature steeplechase fence. An orange and green wooden apron fronts the obstacle, with a rubber roll-bar above it. On top are tufts of plastic 'birch'. The new hurdles will be used at all future meetings on sand at Lingfield and Southwell. Traditional timber hurdles remain for turf racing.

Jamie Railton, one of the jockeys riding at Lingfield yesterday, said: 'I'm in favour. They're proper jumps, unlike before. They're harder than the old ones, but there's a yellow roll-bar half- way up and if you clear that you can brush through the rest.

'Half the problem previously was that hurdlers on this surface were travelling far too fast. They were being clocked at 38 or 39 miles per hour. Horses can't really jump at that speed.'

Geoff Stickels, clerk of the course, said the new obstacles had been put through trials but yesterday was the first time they had been jumped in races. 'No horses fell, though two jockeys were unseated. Everything went well and we're very pleased.'

Lingfield and Southwell agreed yesterday to go on stand-by to organise racing in the event of bad weather. Both courses reached a deal with the Levy Board on the funding of the fixtures.

Twelve of the substitute meetings are planned with Southwell pencilled in for the first one next Tuesday. The idea is to ensure racing takes place in Britain every day except Sundays. However, a decision on whether a stand-by fixture is needed must be taken five days in advance.

(Photograph omitted)

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