Nicci Garner: The huge hail storm that hit Johannesburg on Monday did not miss Turffontein and the treated turf on the Standside track took a thumping with frost overnight “due to the temperature dropping”.
It was an unexpected shock after the mild winter, but track manager Thomas Rasasamola says the setback should not affect the 31 October reopening of the Standside track following its spring treatment.
The track is having a five-week break for a mini-treatment. “There were no undulations on the Standside track, so instead of doing a full spring treatment and scarifying the turf back to ground level we shaved it to 40-45mm, top dressed, vertidrained (loosened the top layer of soil to oxygenate the ground) and repaired the small divots.”
With three weeks left to the first meeting back, he believes there is plenty of time for the turf to recover from the frost.
The Inside track at Turffontein will be closed immediately after the Air Mauritius Jockeys’ International meeting on 19 November when Phumelela’s track staff will start a R1.2-million project that will take four months. The track will reopen on 24 March.
Said Rasasamola: “There are undulations from the 200m mark and over the years the top dressing has caused the sides to become higher than the centre of the track, which is making it uneven and not conducive to safe and fair racing. So, we have to rectify that.
“The top dressing has also resulted in the lateral lines (drainage pipes 500mm below the surface and 7m apart) and gravel bands (5mm below the surface) being too far underground to work efficiently.”
The grass from the 600m mark to the pull-up area at the 2200m pole is to be stripped, the track levelled with excess soil taken off and it will then be replanted with new grass. The whole home straight will be brand new.
Will four months be long enough for such a huge project? “Absolutely,” said Rasasamola. “We are doing it in the middle of the growing season and expect it to be perfect by the time we reopen.”
The Vaal Classic track, the old Vaal sand track that Phumelela grassed, is due to reopen on 24 October, with the track being trialled with grass gallops a few days earlier.
The Classic track had to be closed on 28 October last year, only five months after it reopened, and racing there was scheduled to resume on 14 March. However, that meeting was abandoned after four races because the drainage channels had rendered the track uneven in the back straight and on the turn.
A full spring treatment was carried out on the Classic track and, to ensure there is no trouble on the opening day, trainers and jockeys will be invited to test the surface before the race meeting.