Mark Johnston Urges Racecourses To Stop Overwatering Tracks

Mark Johnston Urges Racecourses To Stop Overwatering Tracks

Britain's Winning Most Trainer of all time Mark Johnston has politely requested that racecourses stop overwatering tracks, as it has got to the stage of becoming unnecessary and an unhealthy trend to do so.

Taking to social media to voice his views, the Scotsman believes venues just need to aim for good to firm ground on the flat, which coincides with the British Horseracing Authority's regulations.

Those guidelines do state it is accepted that in some instances certain courses prefer to produce good ground, but Johnston remains convinced that clerks of the course are consistently overwatering.

The latest roll of events carried onto Ripon, where course officials watered good ground before Sunday's eight-race meeting, but the Middlenham-based trainer identified this is an extended issue across all forms of racing.

(Credit: Racing Post) He said: "I could tweet about it every day.

"Sandown is at it today. The going report says good, good to firm in places, watering. They are supposed to be aiming for good to firm.

"It's clearly softer than good to firm at the moment yet they're watering", he finished.

While not without sympathy for track officials, Johnston - a qualified vet, goes further on suggesting that overwatering is also detrimental to the ground itself.

He continued: "I have sympathy for them [officials] because I know as soon as they put that word firm in the going description, there's a risk of them getting more non-runners.

"We've definitely got a problem that ground is overwatered and not what we're looking for, for Flat horses. It doesn't produce the best of racing and it's not doing the best for the breed in the long term.

"We're looking for good to firm so why are they watering to get it softer than that? We all know that you don't get such a sound surface with watered ground as you do with natural grass growth."

"In the long term, horses are going to adapt, develop and evolve to suit the kind of ground we race them on. The only way to condition bone for running on fast ground is to run them on fast ground. Neither from a selection point of view or a conditioning point of view is this watered ground good for them." 

Instead of trying to thwart 'firm' in the description of Sunday's meeting, Ripon clerk of the course James Hutchinson explained watering of the track was strictly down to turf management and did what he felt was best for the grass.

Hutchinson said: "We put 3mm of watering on the track on Wednesday night which followed two extremely warm days and the ground had been drying.

"Turf is a plant and requires water to grow, that's why we put water on in order to put moisture into the ground to keep the grass growing after two very warm days. 

"It wasn't a large amount and was just to keep the grass growing, healthy and in good condition. I wasn't trying to produce a softer surface."