Jumping the last fence at Warwick racecourse

05th October 2013

Flat out for the return of the Jumps at Warwick Racecourse

This past week has been spent planning for The Jockey Club Grassroots Series Finals which were run on the final day of Warwick Racecourse’s Flat season on Thursday. It turned out to be an 8 race card and we had been hoping for the forecast rain all week to keep the ground sweet. That rain didn’t materialise and in order to make things even more complicated it looked like arriving midway through racing!

Without that rain, we had to water some parts of the course. We aimed to do as little as possible to ensure safe consistent turf, but at the same time try to allow for what was forecast. It is always a difficult balancing act.

Typically, in the end, the rain did come, but it just 0.6mm in total and had cleared by the time the second race was run. So, it arrived earlier than forecast and in much smaller quantities! It meant the turf was a little loose on top, often the case after light rainfall, but otherwise it performed well and we were pleased. It was a good day's racing overall with some really competitive finishes – the perfect way to round off the season. It was great to hear how pleased Richard Kingscote was for riding a double in both £25,000 Finals.

Now the Flat season has concluded, we're preparing for the Jumps. The groundstaff team at Warwick will spend the remainder of the week mucking out the 100 or so stables that were used on Thursday and reinstating the track to encourage as much recovery of the turf before the winter comes and the grass stops growing. The first fixture of the National Hunt season at Warwick is on the 6th November so we have a month to make sure that everything is ready.

The team began reconstructing the steeplechase fences back in May and, as the summer has gone on, they have made their way through renewing all the fences. Each year we completely re-birch 50% of the fences and with the other half we rebuild the inside half of them. In the past, fences that weren’t being completely re-birched would be ‘pricked in’, which means stuffing extra pieces of new birch in between the existing birch. The method we use now makes better use of the team’s time and produces more consistent fences.

Warwick’s National Hunt track has come through the summer well and the grass growth on it is strong. It was fertilised a couple of weeks ago and coupled with the rain that followed shortly afterwards, the turf has really picked up, so we are already in a strong position moving forward.

There is plenty more to be done at Warwick in the coming weeks from turning round the rail all the way around the course to changing all the signage and notices in the Weighing Room and I hope you’ll enjoy reading how it is all achieved in the coming weeks through this blog.

In the meantime, Huntingdon has two meetings through October, the first being this Sunday. It is not unusual to still be watering at this time of year and we have been doing exactly that for the past week to make sure we are producing good, safe jumping ground.

We have already run two meetings on the track this season, both of which went very well and the new fences and other changes that have been made through summer were well received which gives the team confidence for the remainder of the season. However, it is never far from our minds that thoughts of watering will be turning to thoughts of frost protection covers before too long – winter isn’t far away!