Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pulling the Plug on Turf Watering

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pulling the Plug on Turf Watering

Article excerpt

Byline: By Doug Moscrop

The worst drought for a century is predicted for some parts of the country this summer. Hosepipe bans are already in operation. Even racing seems to have water on the brain, but for the wrong reasons.

While I accept watering of racetracks to promote the growth of turf and take any sting out of the ground is necessary, that's as far as it should go. Originally, that was the idea, but it has now gone way beyond that stage and there are no winners as a result.

Trainer Mark Johnston has an opinion about everything in the sport and, though I don't agree with all his views, I am inclined to take sides with his thinking that watering should stop 10 days prior to a meeting.

Without going along with that timescale, I think there is a lot of sense in what he says about the watering policy and his belief that the perfect surface for Flat performers is on the fast side of good. Good to firm, in other words.

We continually get the message pushed down our throats that the welfare of horse and rider is paramount. Of course it is, but there is a contradiction by watering to the extent they do nowadays.

As far as I know, there hasn't been a system devised that covers every blade of grass and, consequently, it not only leads to one side of the track often being faster than the other, but, more importantly, it creates false patches.

Now this can be dangerous to competitors. One moment they are racing on quicker ground and suddenly they hit a softer spot that can cause falls and injuries.

Watering has also had a big impact on the outcome of races and leads to more confusion for punters.

I have always loved trying to sort out an impossible 20-runner sprint handicap, but now I am giving them a wide berth because you don't know where you stand before the stalls open.

Once you could dismiss half the field because of where they were drawn and reduce it further by sticking to horses running well as the sprinting brigade tend to hold their form better than those tackling longer distances.

Now you never quite know which side has the advantage and this is down in most cases to watering. …

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