Romford is within hours of being handed back to the local track staff after a monumental effort to renovate the entire racing circuit by Jason Begg and his team at Albany Track Works Ltd writes Floyd Amphlett.
Jason said: “We’ve done a few of these now, Newcastle, Sunderland, Towcester, Crayford, but this has been the toughest challenge by far for two main reasons.
“First of all, we were already on a tight schedule of Sunday to Friday, but then discovered that the council wouldn’t let us start until the Monday.
“Secondly, the location would already be very tight, but with all the other work going on site, particularly with all the scaffolding, it has been a real challenge to get around the place.
“We’ve had £900,000 worth of plant and 15 men on site and some of the big machines just had no way to manoeuvre. So we even had to cut down the lighting columns around the track, and re-weld them when we were done.”
Having dug up and removed the original circuit, Jason was in no doubt why the track staff have battled to keep the circuit consistent.
He said: “We did some test pits and must have chosen the only places where there was ‘type one’ rubble under the sand. As we excavated the full circuit, we came across a huge amount of clay.
“The two different surfaces would explain why the staff had to water some places more than others. Quite simply, there was nowhere for the water to drain away and they were reliant on natural drying. In extreme conditions, the track simply wouldn’t have coped.
“The clay presents additional problems because the heavy machinery makes ruts in it. If you don’t level those out, you will never get a consistent surface.
“Although they could be filled with the layer of stones, it would mean that those areas would be deeper and would retain the water differently.”
Jason and his team have laid 500 tons of ‘4 mil stone’ plus 960 tons of sand.
He said: “The thickness of the sand is absolutely vital. You need eight inches of which the top six inches can be rotavated. You then need two inches of sand to form the pan.
“Anymore than two inches of pan means the water can’t drain away and you are back to square one.”
So what differences with the local owners and trainers notice?
Jason said: “To begin with, there will be a lot of pressure on the track staff. This new surface will absolutely ‘drink’ the water. They will have to put an awful lot on for the first two or three months. But it will settle as the pan is created.
“One the plus side, it will certainly cope with extremes of weather in a way that it hasn’t before.”
“I am absolutely confident that the track will be much more consistent, not just inside to outside, but the straights as well as the bends. There is no doubt that the inconsistency leads to injuries.
“In fact, when we leave, it will be up to the track staff to prepare the surface to the way that they see fit. Different tracks have different ideas, but consistency is the most important thing as the dogs get used to it.
“The track will run slightly differently. At every other track, we have had to build up the camber at the bends. At Romford we have had to take some away.
“Over time it had been pushed higher and higher, way past the optimum. The dogs should benefit with it being a little lower.
“In fact, the hare rail had got so high with the grass around the edges that it has been obscuring the hare. The dogs should see it a lot clearer from now on.”
Romford is due to re-open for racing on Saturday morning.