History of All-Weather Racing: Lingfield Park launched the newly resurfaced Polytrack in October, 2012, showing strong commitment to the future growth of All-Weather Racing in the UK.
This investment, complemented by the regeneration of the famous racecourse (construction of a £5.5 million grandstand and 4* Marriott Hotel), put Lingfield Park firmly on the map as a major state-of-the-art racing, conference and leisure destination with facilities to match any in the country.
Best known as a winter All-Weather Flat course, Lingfield Park also stages Flat Racing in the summer and National Hunt, both on turf. Located in a 450-acre estate and opened in 1890 by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), who also agreed to let Lingfield Park incorporate the Prince of Wales feathers into its official heading, the course initially held Jump racing only.
The Jockey Club granted permission for Flat Racing to be held in 1894 and it has continued ever since.
In 1982, the new owners installed flood defences on the estate to alleviate flooding. A golf course was developed and this opened in June, 1987.
Lingfield Park was granted permission to construct a 10-furlong left-handed Equitrack All-Weather track on the inside of its turf course in December, 1988.
The Surrey racecourse staged Britain’s first fixture on an artificial surface on 30th October, 1989.
Rapporteur was one of the first specialist performers on Equitrack, racking up 14 victories on the surface. Trained in Lambourn by Charlie Elsey for most of his career and owned by Richard Berenson, Rapporteur also won five times on turf at Lingfield Park. In fact, all his successes came at Lingfield Park, despite racing 33 times at other courses.
Other specialists at Lingfield over the years have included Respectable Jones, an 11-time winner between 1990 and 1994, Krystal Max, who scored 13 times from 1995 to 2001 and Bank On Him, successful a dozen times between 1999 and 2005.
The Winter Derby was introduced at Lingfield Park in 1998, with the first running going the way of future globetrotting star Running Stag. Trainer Philip Mitchell’s flagbearer won three Grade Two events in America, as well as running in Dubai, France, Germany and Hong Kong.
The Winter Derby was given Listed status in 1999 and upgraded to Group Three level in 2006. The 2005 winner Eccentric was a seven-time scorer at Lingfield Park and also a Group Three turf winner at Windsor. He was subsequently sold to race in North America and captured a Grade Two race at Woodbine in Canada.
Recent winners of the 10-furlong contest have included Farraaj, who went on to run well in Group One races in Australia, Hong Kong and Dubai following his Lingfield Park win in 2013.
Tryster, an impressive victor of the Winter Derby in 2015, also progressed to success on the international stage, with victory in Dubai’s Group One Jebel Hatta in 2016.
The surface at Lingfield Park changed to Polytrack from Equitrack in November, 2001 and this switch was the key to attracting better horses onto the All-Weather, whether to race or to work.
A prime example of the latter came the following March when Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien brought a six-strong team, headed by Breeders’ Cup hero Johannesburg and 2,000 Guineas favourite Hawk Wing.
The sextet also included Sir Alex Ferguson’s Rock Of Gibraltar, who went on to win five consecutive Group One races, Sholokhov and Racing Post Trophy runner-up Castle Gandolfo. After the workout, O’Brien described the surface as: “brilliant, absolutely first class – the jockeys said it rode beautifully.”
Castle Gandolfo returned in April, 2002 to win the inaugural running of the International Trial, which has been captured by Dubawi Gold (2011) and Van Der Neer (2013), and both Richard Hannon-trained colts went on to be placed in the G1 colts’ Classic, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Lingfield Park stages nine other Listed races each year on Polytrack, which have been won by subsequent Group One scorers Decorated Knight, Paco Boy and Gitano Hernando in recent years.
It also worth paying close attention to maidens. Snow Fairy captured a six-furlong maiden in July, 2009, and subsequently annexed six Group Ones around the world, while Monterosso took a mile maiden the following January and progressed to land the 2012 Dubai World Cup, worth US$10 million. Simple Verse and Harbour Law started their careers in middle distance maidens at Lingfield Park during All-Weather Championships and, by the end of the year, progressed to win the final British Classic of the season, the St Leger on turf at Doncaster, in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Lingfield Park made history on 18th April, 2014, by becoming the first English course to stage racing on Good Friday. A sell-out crowd attended the inaugural All-Weather Championship Finals Day, which boasted a total of £1 million in prize money, making it the richest-ever day of All-Weather racing.
For Sovereign Debt it was third time lucky in the Sun Bets Mile All-Weather Championship on Good Friday 2017 for his new trainer Ruth Carr, having finished runner-up in the 2015 and 2016 editions. The popular grey achieved a career-high rating of 117 last summer following victories on turf in the G2 Sandown Mile and the G3 Diomed Stakes at Epsom Downs under a penalty.
The All-Weather track at Lingfield Park runs around the inside of the turf course. It is a left-handed loop and follows much the same line as the turf course in the home straight and the back straight, but turns sharply for home at the end of the back straight and is 1m 2f in length.
The track gently rises to a slight hill at the start of the back straight before running downhill around the bottom corner and into the home straight where it levels off. The result is that the 1m, 7f, 6f and 5f starts are all downhill, which contributes to Lingfield being the sharpest of Britain’s All-Weather tracks.
Record Times at Lingfield Park, Polytrack
|6f 1y||Tarooq||18/12/2013||1m 8.75s|
|7f 1y||Grey Mirage||22/02/2014||1m 21.92s|
|1m 1y||My Target||31/12/2016||1m 34.34s|
|1m 2f||Farraaj||16/03/2013||2m 0.99s|
|1m 7f 169y||Winning Story||14/04/2017||3m 15.1|