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Making its mark in the annals of racing history; Dave Bellingham recalls the landmarks reached in the last 20 years.

Byline: Dave Bellingham

First Southwell meeting Nine days after Lingfield's first meeting, Southwell held its first fixture on its new Fibresand surface, with just the nine races. Frankie Dettori, who had taken the last race at the first Lingfield meeting, had the distinction of winning the first race at Southwell when steering Michael Jarvis's Crystal Pool to victory in the first division of the 1m older-horse maiden.

History was also made in the next race when David Chapman's Verdant Boy, who had already won at Lingfield became the first horse to win at both tracks when taking the first division of the claimer under Michael Hills.

The other most notable achievement at the meeting came when Kim Tinkler took the second division of the claimer aboard her husband Nigel's Tite Spot, thereby becoming the first female jockey to ride a winner on the all-weather in Britain.

Early heroes A notable early all-weather stalwart was the Charlie Elsey-trained Rapporteur, who won five times at Lingfield in 1990 (he had also won there in December 1989) and went on to win eight more on the Equitrack.

He was also successful five times on turf at Lingfield, and his last victory on Equitrack came in March 1994, making a total of 14 on the artificial surface. To this day, no horse has won more races on the sand at Lingfield.

Two other horses won five times on sand in 1990, Irish Passage and Bronze Cross, both trained by David Barron, and when you consider that during that year, not including mixed turf/sand meetings, there were just 58 all-weather Flat fixtures that is some achievement.

Jumps heroes Although it lasted just a short time, all-weather racing over jumps produced some notable performances, plus its own set of heroes.

In addition to Viking Flagship, whose exploits on the all-weather I have mentioned earlier , how many will remember that Pridwell won his first two starts over hurdles at Southwell in January 1994 before going on to become a high-class performer? His finest hour came when he defeated the reigning champion Istabraq in the 1998 Aintree Hurdle.

However, in terms of success and consistency, nothing can match the exploits of Reg Hollinshead's Suluk, whose 26 career victories included an incredible 18 over hurdles on the Southwell Fibresand between January 1990 and March 1993, plus another two victories on the Flat. Horses like him don't come around very often.

Wolverhampton begins On Monday, December 27, 1993, another new phase was reached in the development of all-weather racing when Wolverhampton staged its first meeting on Fibresand.

The first race was a stakes event confined to horses rated from 0-65 and was won by the Bill O'Gormantrained Express Service, who prevailed by a head at 9-2 under his daughter Emma. Incidentally, the second race on the card, a 7f claimer, was won by Bryan McMahon's Causley, ridden by a promising 5lb claimer called Seb Sanders.

Wolverhampton also witnessed a new innovation in that the last two races on the card were the first in Britain to be run under floodlights.

The first of the two contests, a 6f handicap for horses rated 0-70, was won by Petraco (Nigel Smith and Steve Williams) at 4-1, while the winner of the second, a 0-80 handicap over 2m1/2f, was Iota (Jimmy Harris and Paul Eddery) at 12-1.

Aidan visits For a while, Aidan O'Brien was a notable visitor to the all-weather tracks. In 2000 he took Giant's Causeway to Southwell for a workout before to the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, where he was beaten a neck by Tiznow, and in 2001 he brought Galileo, Mozart and Black Minnaloushe to the track in preparation for their respective Breeders' Cup targets at Belmont Park.

Early in 2002, O'Brien brought Johannesburg (bound for the Kentucky Derby), Hawk Wing (favourite for the 2,000 Guineas), Rock Of Gibraltar (who went on to win the Guineas) plus Castle Gandolfo to work at Lingfield.

Then in March of that year, the last-named of that quartet did it for real when at the same track under Mick Kinane, he won the first running of a new 1m conditions contest for three-year-olds, the International Trial Stakes.

The form of the inaugural running was enhanced when the third home, Dupont, went on to win the Italian and German 2,000 Guineas, and the following year the race was upgraded to Listed status.

Kempton opens On March 25, 2006, Kempton became the first, and still the only, right-handed all-weather track in Britain and Ireland. The honour of being the first horse to win on the new track fell to Akona Matata (Clive Brittain and Jimmy Fortune), who took the older-horse 1m maiden at 5-1. One major consequence of Kempton becoming the fourth British all-weather track was that it brought with it an established portfolio of big Flat races, such as the Rosebery Handicap and, even more significantly, two Group 3 races, namely the September Stakes for older horses over 1m4f and the 6f Sirenia Stakes for two-year-olds.

The number of Group races now being run on British all-weather tracks had tripled almost overnight, and all-weather Listed races were now appearing in the calendar thick and fast.

CAPTION(S):

Kim Tinkler: first female rider to win a race on the all-weather Aidan O'Brien: used the sand to work his Breeders' Cup raiders Wolverhampton became the first track in Britain to race under floodlights in December 1993
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 30, 2009
Words:906
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