Newcastle floodlit all-weather track plans announced

Richard Johnson rides Lord Protector to win at Sandown. Picture: PA
Richard Johnson rides Lord Protector to win at Sandown. Picture: PA
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A FLOODLIT all-weather track at Newcastle is a possibility after a wide-ranging consultation process was announced by owners Arena Racing Company (ARC) to consider development at the venue.

ARC said it hoped a planning application for the scheme can be lodged by 31 January next year and, if successful, racing on the new surface would commence in 2015. The current proposals are based around replacing the existing turf Flat track with an all-weather surface that would incorporate the only floodlit straight mile in the world.

The existing turf jumps track would be unaffected, although the Flat race programme, if run on the all-weather, would increase the scope for an additional number of jumps fixtures to be staged. The development would still leave the track with an option to host its principal race, the John Smith’s Northumberland Plate, on a turf surface.

Richard Fahey, the leading trainer at Newcastle over the last few years, said: “We are desperately in need of an all-weather track up north. I know Musselburgh were keen for an all-weather but that’s too far from us as well. Newcastle’s location isn’t ideal for us but we’ll definitely support it. I’d be amazed it they didn’t get permission.”

The two big jumps races today are the BetVictor Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree.

Sire De Grugy leads the pack looking to profit from Sprinter Sacre’s misfortune in what now looks a wide-open renewal of the Tingle Creek.

Gary Moore’s stable star was impressive on his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow in late October, and showed when winning the Celebration Chase in the spring the testing nature of Sandown holds no fears for him.

Sire De Grugy needs to bounce back from a shock defeat at Cheltenham last month, but Moore feels his seven-year-old is in a better place now. He said: “I was a little bit disappointed at Cheltenham, but there were a few things we can iron out right that were wrong at Cheltenham and I think he will be a better horse at Sandown.”

Despite Sprinter Sacre’s absence, Henderson still has a major contender in Captain Conan, who has won three Grade Ones from three starts at the track. Henderson’s big rival, Paul Nicholls, fields the talented, but difficult-to-predict, Kauto Stone, who is fitted with blinkers for the first time.

In the Becher Chase, Baby Run bids to make a fairytale comeback from a lengthy lay-off and give trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies a sixth success in the race. Twiston-Davies first lifted this dress rehearsal for the Grand National with Indian Tonic 20 years ago and has since been on the roll of honour with Young Hustler (1995), Earth Summit (1998) and dual winner Hello Bud in 2010 and 2012.

Twiston-Davies also owns Baby Run and is the mount of his son, Sam. Successful over the fences in the Fox Hunters’ Chase in April 2011, when ridden by the trainer’s other jockey-son, Willy, the 13-year-old has been sidelined since finishing third in the bet365 Gold Cup later that month. The Naunton handler said: “He had a small leg problem after we ran him on ground that was a bit too fast for him in what was the Whitbread at Sandown. He’s been in good form and he won the Fox Hunters’ round there so it should suit him.”

Big Fella Thanks was third in this race last year and the Aintree regular is making his seventh appearance at this course. “He was only beaten two lengths in it last year and this has been target all season,” said trainer Tom George.