Fontwell Park owner Arena Racing Company has completed the installation of a new cambered all-weather bend at the popular racecourse.
Plans were developed and submitted for planning permission last summer. Following approval by the local authority work was undertaken which will now see horses race over 330 metres of fibresand, replacing a turf bend which had a reverse camber which was particularly pronounced in the south-west corner.
It will be in use when Fontwell resume racing next Thursday - August 17 - after their summer break.
The work has taken about six weeks to complete and been carried out by contractors Souters Sports Ltd with the aid of agronomists, Professional Sports Turf Design and MK Surveys to ensure an optimum racing surface, and in consultation with the British Horseracing Authority course inspectorate.
The introduction of a cambered all-weather section represents an upgrade to the track and ensures horses and jockeys are provided with consistent surface around the ideal racing line.
The unique configuration of the track means horses race anti-clockwise around the outside in hurdle races and clockwise around the inside bend in steeplechases. At the height of the summer, both hurdle and steeplechase races were run on a common bend.
Both steeple chase and hurdle races will now be run on the same surveyed line on the all-weather bend. A similar project has previously been undertaken at Musselburgh.
On Tuesday, a trial gallop was held. Ten horses worked in both directions around the bend and all parties were happy with the new racing surface.
Leading National Hunt trainer Gary Moore, whose son Josh rode during in the trial, said: “We send plenty of horses to Fontwell and were pleased to have the chance to be part of the trial gallop. Josh reported back that it rode well and we think it’s a great innovation by the racecourse. We look forward to racing on it next week.”
Jockeys’ safety officer Andrew Thornton, who was present at the trial gallop along with Josh Moore, Tom Cannon, Mattie Batchelor and Mark Goldstein, said: “The turf bend had been of increasing concern to jockeys. We welcome the move by ARC to invest in the new all-weather bend which will help ensure the safety of horses and jockeys given it will be a consistent racing surface whatever the weather conditions.”
BHA Inspectorate of Courses Peter Hobbs, said: “The feedback from the trial gallop on Tuesday was positive with jockeys reporting that the bend rode well. We will monitor it closely during the first meeting next week.”
ARC racing director Jon Pullin, said: “In consultation with jockeys and trainers we assessed all options and there was a clear consensus that the installation of an all-weather bend would help ensure confidence in the racing surface for all participants.
“We are pleased to have completed the work on time and would like to thank everyone who assisted us during this project. We look forward to Fontwell recommencing racing next week.”