THERE were compliments all around for the new Polytrack at Fairview Racecourse in Port Elizabeth.
The track was given a baptism of fire over the weekend but came through it in radiant glory. Initially just the first three races on Friday were to be run on it but incessant rain forced officials to move all 10 races of Sunday’s Algoa Cup meeting to the new all-weather track.
Trainers Alan Greeff and Yvette Bremner came out in full support of the meeting being moved. “When we walked the course on Saturday there was a lot of water. We know where the weak points are,” said Greeff.
“There was talk of running the Algoa Cup on the turf and the rest on the Polytrack but the decision was then taken to move the entire meeting. At around 4pm on Saturday I thought we may have acted a touch prematurely but we had more rain overnight. When I went to the course on Sunday morning I knew it would have been impossible to race on the turf.
“It’s not the ideal choice but it served its purpose. The results were more than fair. I had horses who ran a lot better on the Poly than I expected.
This morning (Monday) the tracks were buggered but the Polytrack was very busy. We were all able to work out horses,” said Greeff.
“I am more than happy and all the jockeys who rode for me were all very complimentary.”
Bremner echoed Greeff’s sentiments. “Obviously the jockeys have to get used to the pace of the track but the course is very good and the transition to the Poly was excellent. I only had one horse pull up a little bit jarred, but he’s a youngster. The rest are fine.
“I absolutely agreed for meeting to be moved. If they had started on the turf they would never have completed the meeting.”
The jockeys were equally delighted with the track. Robbie Fradd, who rode Disco Al to victory in the Algoa Cup, asked Racing Association CEO Larry
Wainstein: “Can’t we pack up this track and take it to Joburg?”
Fradd added: “The track is amazing. The horses will come back and tomorrow they won’t feel their legs. Had they not had the track they would not have been able to save the meeting.
“It might have cost a lot to build but in five years you will recoup your money.
“I love it. There is not much kickback and the horses handle it well. Hats off to Phumelela for building it.
“Let’s do it in Joburg. We won’t regret it. During winter it is a lot kinder on the horses’ legs.”
Greg Cheyne has ridden on Polytracks in other countries. “It was absolutely fantastic. The horses held their ground nicely and no one was slipping around the turn. It may look tight but it’s as good as any Polytrack anywhere in the world.”
Francois Herholdt, who rode runner-up Storm Dancer in the Algoa Cup said that not a negative comment came out of the jockey room. “We work on the Polytrack at Randjesfontein but there is a difference between working horses and race riding. This Polytrack is as good, if not better, than any of the tracks I’ve ridden on anywhere in the world.
But the final test lies with the racing public. “In the two days we raced on the Polytrack the turnovers were outstanding,” said Betting Executive Vee Moodley.
“I was very impressed with the two R50,000 Quartet carryovers. The first was above R300,000 and the second just below. But the most amazing feature was the Win pool of around R205,000 in Race 3. It was the highest pool of the day! It tells me the public were confident enough to have a go.”
However, added Moodley, yesterday was the cherry on the top. “Last year the meeting took place on 25 November on the grass and this time it was 27 October on Polytrack. Nobody knew how the horses would run and usually when we change track there is an automatic drop in turnovers.
“Not this time. TAB turnover was about 4,5% up on last year.
“Ultimately the proof of the pudding is in the numbers.”