A racecourse surface can either be a natural grass surface (turf) or on a synthetic surface (all-weather). The turf can be turned muddy if rainfall pounds the racecourse, and such conditions can significantly affect the outcome of the race.
During the late 1980’s, officials wanted to keep racing going throughout the winter, and artificial turf was installed on some tracks primarily for national hunt races. However, artificial surfaces used in this period caused injuries to race horses. In the early years, the rate of horses finishing lame more than doubled on the all weather surfaces.
All weather jump racing would later give way to flat racing. But the industry has been slow to embrace artificial surfaces, and there is a common perception among trainers, jockeys, and owners that all weather meetings are for lower quality horses. Many punters choose not to bet on all weather racing despite Group and Listed Class races being run on the surface.
Polytrack surface is used at Lingfield, Wolverhampton, Kempton and Great Leighs. It is generally regarded as a better surface for horses since there is less jarring and virtually no kickback. Across the Atlantic, some U.S. states have mandated that their racecourses rip up dirt tracks and install Polytrack.
The second type of artificial surface is Fibresand (installed at Southwell). This is the slower of the two surfaces and is more demanding of the horse and jockey. Jockeys and trainers often refer to Fibresand as soft ground and finish times are usually slower compared to the Polytrack surface.
Most trainers prefer Polytrack which they argue helps to reduce stress impact on tendons.