Dickinson to focus on digging up the dirt on American racing

One of the great careers in Turf history is to come to an end. Michael Dickinson, who saddled the first five in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup, yesterday said that he is winding down his stables in Maryland to concentrate on the synthetic racing surface he has devised.

Dickinson, 57, was champion jumps trainer three times between 1980 and 1986 before switching to the Flat. After a brief sojourn at Manton, in 1987 he left for the United States, where his finest achievement was Da Hoss, who twice won the Breeders' Cup Mile. As indelible as any of these accomplishments, however, was his response to those who described him as "The Mad Genius" of racing. "They're half right," he said.

He has devoted much energy to the development of Tapeta, one of the safer surfaces available to American tracks replacing dirt. "I need to concentrate on Tapeta 100 per cent," he said.

"Training has been wildly exciting and I would not have traded it for anything," Dickinson added. "But he believes that the Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park last month, which claimed the life of George Washington, represented the end of the road for dirt racing.

"There are 100 courses here [in the US] and eight of them race on synthetic surfaces," he said. "But that will change and in three to five years there will be no dirt tracks left. The Breeders' Cup was a wake-up call and showed the horrific nature of sloppy tracks."