When was all-weather horse racing introduced into Britain?
Horse racing on synthetic surfaces, popularly known as ‘all-weather’ racing, was first mooted in Britain after the very cold, snowy winter of 1984/85, which resulted in a raft of National Hunt fixtures being abandoned. In early 1987, the Jockey Club, which preceded the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), received several proposals for all-weather tracks, but the first to be given an official stamp of approval was Lingfield Park, in late 1988. The first all-weather meeting at Lingfield Park was staged on Equitrack – that is, sand coated with oil-based polymers – on October 30, 1989. Shortly afterwards, Southwell, which had only received permission to install an all-weather track the previous June, staged its first meeting on November 8, 1989. Southwell chose Fibresand – that is, a mixture of sand particles and fine polypropylene fibres – as its racing surface, making it the first racecourse in the world to do so.
Four years later, on December 27, 1993, Wolverhampton had the distinction of staging the first floodlit fixture in Britain, also on Fibresand. On March 26, 2006, Kempton Park staged its first meeting on Polytrack – that is, a wax-coated mixture of sand and recycled synthetic fibres, rubber and PVC – and a year later was joined, albeit briefly, on the all-weather roster by the ill-fated Great Leighs (later renamed Chelmsford City). On August 11, 2015, Wolverhampton had the further distinction of becoming the first racecourse in Britain to install Tapeta – that is, an enhanced vesrion of Polytrack, designed to mimic the root structure of natural turf – and was joined a year later by Newcastle, which staged its first meeting on Tapeta on May 17, 2016.