James Ewart heads into the new National Hunt season full of optimism and excitement after installing a state-of-the-art Tapeta gallop at his base in Langholm.
Ewart has had a good grounding for the training game, having worked under Nicky Henderson, Ferdy Murphy and multiple French champion trainer Guillaume Macaire before starting out on his own in 2004.
He has built a reputation as one of the most upwardly mobile young trainers on the northern circuit, saddling 23 winners out of his Craig Farm base in the last campaign, with Quicuyo and Time Out doing particularly well with four victories apiece.
Ewart is confident of beating that tally this season and feels privileged to become the first National Hunt trainer in Britain to have the Tapeta surface installed. “We train in the Scottish Borders and, first and foremost, it is wonderful to have a Tapeta gallop in Scotland and I am very proud to have it here on the farm,” said Ewart, speaking at a press morning at his yard. “We’ve had a very wet winter so far, which means all the turf gallops you might utilise in a normal situation are terribly testing.
“We’ve now got this marvellous Tapeta gallop, which has allowed us to continue working horses on a surface you would consider good ground, when naturally we only have heavy ground. That is a huge bonus.
“One of the problems we had last season was that when the horses were fit, I had no option but to gallop them on either heavy ground or the heavy sand gallop. That was taking too much out of the horses between races and this new gallop is going to make the horses’ lives much nicer in terms of training.
“This is only the fourth Tapeta track in the UK, two are at Godolphin in Newmarket and the other is Mark Johnston’s in Middleham”
Tapeta is the brainchild of the legendary trainer Michael Dickinson, famous for saddling the first five home in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup. The synthetic surface is used at Meydan racecourse in Dubai and at a number of venues in the States, and Dickinson is delighted to have added Ewart to his list of clients. “We’re in ten countries around the world and Mark Johnston put our surface in four years ago. He has had 200 winners a few years running,” said Dickinson.