Since its inauguration at Lingfield 20 years ago, All-Weather flat racing has gone from strength to strength. From being an unrespected ‘poor relation’ to summer-season turf racing, providing ‘betting fodder’ for the bookies and year-round racing for very moderate horses, these tracks (which were joined in 2006 by Kempton, in 2008 by Great Leighs, currently in abeyance, in 2008 by Dundalk in Ireland, and in 2009 by Fos Las) have carved their own niche as a speciality in their own right. Certain trainers now target the increasingly valuable A/W races – of which Lingfield’s Winter Derby is the pinnacle – with horses bred for the job, and even the top trainers value these tracks for bringing on young stock.
This year’s Guineas winner Ghanaati had only run at Kempton before her Classic success, and she joins such ‘standing dishes’ as Running Stag, Vortex, Hattan and Gentleman’s Deal in the A/W roll of honour. The 20th Anniversary meeting saw the silks of just about every big UK-based owner and stud gracing the Parade Ring, including representatives of the Arab battalions Godolphin, Juddmonte, and Princess Haya, and for the UK Jeff Smith’s Littleton Stud, Meon Valley, Oak Tree, and others. We even had a Rothschild in the PR! With the A/W tracks now providing races up to Group level, and much bigger purses, and their value as proving grounds for the immensely valuable races at the Breeders Cup meeting and the Dubai Winter Carnival increasingly clear, the future of A/W racing is assured.
Frankie Dettori, a favourite with so many racegoers, won four of the seven races, also bringing up his century for the season. To the delight of the crowd – and especially the children – he treated us to not just one but two flying dismounts. Frankie was tireless all afternoon in signing autographs, giving interviews, chatting to the kids, and generally exuding enjoyment and enthusiasm: a grateful course management duly presented him with a magnum of champagne at the close of the day!