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CHRIS BOURCHIER Yarmouth's gardening leave poised to end.

Bruce Jackson joins those testing out the new turf surface yesterday as the track counts down to its belated return to action this month THE resident seagulls were strangely missing, but for the first time in 2015 horses were not as Yarmouth opened its gates to them for the first time in nearly a year.

A couple of false dawns have passed since track owner Arena Racing Company bowed to horsemen pressure last year to address an increasingly uneven surface up the straight mile that had hosted the likes of champions Dubai Millennium and Ouija Board.

Pictures of mud and puddles after Easter were replaced by a scene of idyllic summer greensward that sparkled pristine before its trial by pounding hoof, with swallows swooping low across the paddock to signal summer has not yet passed.

After, it still looked verdant, the impressive root growth holding the hoof damage to a traditional print, rather than producing more divots than a Rory McIlroy wedge.

The omens were good under a blue sky and, for the exposed Norfolk coast, a light breeze as four horseboxes pulled in to unload nine horses to tread virgin ground.

Two hours and four gallops later there was a consensus the real thing should restart with the seven-race card on August bank holiday Sunday.

More importantly, that will be the recommendation from inspector of courses Nicky Carlisle to his BHA bosses, who are expected to give the formal go-ahead today.

"I'm happy with what I've seen and, talking to trainers and jockeys, I'm sure we'll race a fortnight today," he said. "We'll see how it stands up to a full raceday but, provided the weather isn't extremely wet, I'd like to think we'd get through the other five racedays this year. But the sward will improve year on year."

Newmarket trainer Chris Wall, self-confessed sceptic of racing's resuming this year - if at all - watched his two gallop up the relaid straight under Ted Durcan and Jimmy Quinn.

"I've been one of the harshest critics but my horses moved well and I'm very pleased with the state of the track, with one small area of softer ground to address," he said.

"The track has come together well in leaps and bounds and I'll be quite happy to run horses here on August 30 if I've any suitable for the races."

While the sun has been shining clerk of the course Richard Aldous admitted he had erred on the side of caution in preparing ground without any jar as Yarmouth goes back to its grassroots, literally.

Sitting in the Lord Nelson Stand, nobody was turning a blind eye to possible hiccups on the horizon if the weather turns stormy next month, with the three-day festival looming and the added poundings that would bring.

Durcan, having ridden up the straight and on the round course testing the bend into the straight, reflected: "At the moment you'd be happy to race on it - there's a great covering of grass - but you'd be slightly worried about how much traffic it could stand."

Wall was of the same mind when adding: "The track's responded well but, to use football parlance, we need to take it one meeting at a time."

Phil McEntee was impressed enough by the transformation to put stalwart stable star Jonnie Skull in the frame for an upcoming race, while Julia Feilden, who has felt the track's absence keenly, having a few Yarmouth specialists, was first up with one of them, Honeymoon Express, and an unraced three-year-old.

Their riders Adam Beschizza - "it rode fantastic" - and Jimmy Quinn - "they've done well in a short space of time" - completed the positive feedback. Just what general manager Glen Tubby and Aldous hoped to hear to make the near PS300,000 investment money well spent by Arc.

As everyone left, a car drove in and a pensioner driver wound down his window to ask if racing was returning. Getting the affirmative, he broke into a broad grin.

To rework the famous "swerved dead seagull" close-up of the late Steve Boggett, the Yarmouth resurfacing race comment could read: "Very slowly away, rapid late headway, no dead duck."

COMMENT Now racing and Arc need to promote new era for the track THOSE with long enough memories will recall Yarmouth used to be referred to as Newmarket-on-Sea, such was the patronage from racing's headquarters.

Some famous racecourse gallops took place there in the 1960s and 1970s, along with two-year-old maidens brimming with talent, such was the reputation for wonderful ground and a flat, fair surface.

Arena Racing Company, much maligned for track closures and upcoming Newcastle desecration, should regain brownie points for its work at Yarmouth. Yesterday's estimate was that some PS300,000 has been spent, not only on levelling the track, digging down to three feet in places with laser precision, but on a new irrigation system and groundwork machinery.

All involved deserve kindness from the elements in the next ten weeks to advertise a new era with the six remaining 2015 meetings. We can only hope the Newmarket set will vote with their horses to restore the racecourse to some of its former glory - unlike the old Britannia Pier!

Now if only Arc could dig equally deep into its coffers to make the prize-money just as lush as its grass, perhaps we could see more Group 1 winners debut at the seaside.

Locals cannot wait for its delayed return, with hotels, restaurants, taxi firms and just about all local businesses realising its pulling power in a depressed area.

Racing and Arc need to feed that appetite, starting with the family funday on August bank holiday Sunday.

Bruce Jackson
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Title Annotation:News; Teasers
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Aug 17, 2015
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