On The Surface…

Where to next for Gauteng racing surfaces?

The Gr3 Spring Spree Stakes run at Turffontein today has a short history and was won last year by Kangaroo Jack, a smart son of Querari trained by Gary Alexander.

Sand Hand

2013 flashback – Here Comes Billy (S’manga Khumalo) draws clear to beat Uncle Tommy in the August Stakes

The Spring Spree stakes was previously known as the Gr3 August Stakes, an event run annually over 1200m on the Vaal Sand – which closed for business in October 2015, ending fourteen eventful ,  even turbulent, years. An expert judge, champion jockey Piere Strydom once said he could not imagine there was a worse track on earth than the Vaal sand.

Requiring masses of water, and with the top layer being replaced some years ago, it was hardly surprising that the track was generally thought to be unsustainable commercially and environmentally into the future

Whoever was to blame, in the end, the Vaal sand simply failed to satisfy the need for an alternative racing surface to turf on the Highveld during winter – which was the very reason for its introduction in the first instance. Turf is the best racing surface in the summer but during the Highveld winter grass tracks become hard and divot repairs cause inconsistencies.

Horse, Pylon

Pylon – once SA’s highest rated sand runner ever

But there are now issues with the Vaal turf, too.  Seven meetings scheduled for the Vaal in September have been switched to Turffontein. Has the plan failed and is the installation of a polytrack at Turffontein now inevitable?

Phumelela went on record saying that the replacement of the sand with a turf surface is ‘strategically the first step towards the installation of a synthetic racing surface in Johannesburg’.

“An enormous amount of energy, money and time has gone into the Vaal sand track down the years, but the complaints are endless and it’s unlikely that all stakeholders will ever be satisfied,” said former Phumelela Horseracing Executive Patrick Davis on the announcement of the Vaal  sand closure.

So where to next?

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