Trainer Magazine

Trainer Magazine - the horse racing magazine for the training and development of the thoroughbred racehorse. Europe and North America.

Iconic Gallops of Europe

TRAININGWeb Master
  Iconic gallops       Why are Europe's public training areas so well known? Part of their uniqueness and fame rests with the very concept of public training grounds. There are very few public facilities throughout the world and the most common training practice is the use of racecourse tracks. In the majority of countries trainers are based at racetracks and simply use the racecourse facilities.       While many of Europe's renowned training centres are situated close to a racecourse, or are run in conjunction with that track, they are, nevertheless, separate facilities offering a wide choice of gallops and surface, often over a vast acreage. The benefit to the horse is variety and change of scenery without impacting on its daily routine or necessitating travel. For the trainer, a choice of gallops and surfaces can be tailored to a horse's individual needs and prevailing weather.       Hoppegarten    Typical of this, though less widely known, is Hoppegarten in Germany, where 13-20 public trainers are based. A common factor shared by many of Europe's renowned gallops is Hoppegarten's sand-based subsoil, allowing the racecourse track and various gallops to drain freely. As a result, coupled with modern artificial watering systems employed by groundsmen in drying weather, extreme ground conditions are avoided and consistent work surfaces are provided all year round.        Hoppegarten is home to the biggest training grounds in Germany, encompassing over 500 acres of woodland, with 10km of walking and trotting paths, and since 2013 it has been granted the status of a Landmark of National Importance. A year earlier,  Roland Dzubasz achieved the feat of becoming the first German Champion Trainer from Hoppegarten in reunited Germany, helping to restore the area's status to its pre-1945 glory days when most Champion Trainers were based there. Dzubasz currently has 60 horses in training.        The historic 430-acre Neuenhagen training track, established in 1910, was purchased by racecourse owner Gerhard Schöningh in 2015, saving it from threat of closure, and has a track and in-field of 190 acres, set within woodland and agricultural land, less than 20km from the centre of Berlin. It offers three oval turf tracks between 16-24m wide, with a total length of nearly 9000m, and a 3400m dirt track.       Schöningh has claimed, "My ambition is to restore racing and training at Hoppegarten and Neuenhagen to its historic number one position in Germany. The dynamic capital Berlin provides us with a good backdrop for this plan."       Beside the Hoppegarten racecourse itself is the Bollendorfer training complex, with two tracks, one of 2750m with a 900m straight and the other 3200m with a 1000m straight. A 10km riding and training trail network adds further variation and options. In 2008, complementing the existing subsoil, 8,500 tonnes of sand was poured as a substructure of the supporting layer to a 22cm thickness, with a further 3,500 tonnes of special sand providing the rejenerated bottom layer.       Chantilly    Like most of the gallops featured here, Chantilly is set on a clay and limestone ground, rich in limon soil, which is stoneless and was deposited by wind during the Ice Age. This same soil base is shared by Normandy, also within the Paris Basin geological area in which Chantilly sits.       The famous Aigles area covers more than 300 acres, of which over 170 acres are grass. Marin Le Cour Grandmaison is tasked with coordinating the teams looking after both the racecourse and training grounds and regularly monitors the quality of the tracks and day-to-day running of the training centre, which is under the supervision of  Chantilly Training Centre and Racecourse Director, Matthieu Vincent.       There is also a specialised team for the maintenance of the sand and fibresand tracks, headed by Jean François Colombel, and the turf gallops are overseen by Aigles manager, Etienne Briche. Jean Luc Gache, manager of the Lamorlaye-Coye La Forêt Team, is a NH specialist and  heads the team that looks after the many jump tracks and their 86 obstacles in Lamorlaye and Coye La Forêt.       Such an array of grounds staff is vital for a training area that is home to 79 trainers who between them employ 1,000 work riders. Gouvieux's Aigles training area was established in 1900 and the only significant change came in 2000, when a tunnel was constructed beneath Highway 16 to allow the safe passage of horses from the Bois Saint-Denis onto the Aigles tracks.       Aigles offers 13 gallops, including the round Mathet track, straight Sea Bird, and straight Réservoirs with both turf and all-weather options. The Perth has a Flat track and adjoining NH track, with a lane of hurdles and chase fences.       A seperate training area, Bois Larris, boasts six gallops, including the renowned Piste des Lions. A further area, Lamorlaye and Coye La Forêt, caters predominantly for the NH horses of Chantilly, with eight choices of gallop, including the All Along, Camargo (NH) and Lamorlaye round tracks.       Pau    An up-and-coming alternative to Chantilly is Pau in the south-west of France, helped onto the worldwide map by the successes of Pau-based Jean-Claude Rouget and François Rohaut. Unlike the other French training centres, it has more in common with the Curragh and Newmarket in that it is founded on top of a limestone and sandstone sub-surface.        Currently home to 20 trainers, employing 200 staff, there are 700 horses in training there, but those numbers are swelled by an additional 400 horses relocated for the winter months. Three new barns were built in 2002 to accommodate those horses availing of the milder winter conditions and training complex.       The 40km of tracks are harrowed daily and an irrigation system is in place to ensure adequate drainage and a perfect surface is maintained throughout the year. Like Chantilly and others, the sub-soil is a silica-clay base.       The 173-acre training centre at Pau has 12km of turf tracks, including an irrigated 1600m straight gallop. There are a further 12km of  irrigated sand tracks and a large schooling area. A dedicated footbridge for horses enables their ease of crossing from the fibresand tracks to the racecourse and there is also an equine veterinary clinic within the centre.       Deauville    The France Galop-owned Deauville-La Touques racecourse hosts the busiest programme in France, with 41 race days, and is known as the “Four Seasons Racecourse”. During August 600 horses train at the centre, but only 300 are permanent residents throughout the year. Fifteen trainers are based in yards that border the 185-acre Deauville training centre, with up to 50 horses each. As well as the many training tracks available, they can also take their horses onto the beach directly from the stable, which is unique in European training centres.        Olivier Louit, Director, is in charge of organising and coordinating the activities of the training centre and must also ensure the successful staging of the year-round fixtures at the racecourse. Tony VANCAYEEZELE is the tRACK mANAGER and is responsible for both the training centre’s tracks and racecourse tracks, with specialist knowledge in turf and fibresand surfaces and their care.        The racecourse and training grounds are built over what was once dried up marshland, but shares the rich clay soil that we so often see beneath our best-known gallops. Despite the long history of the popular racecourse, the permanent training centre itself was only established in 1982. Its 50-acres of tracks include a turf track, a round 2200m track and a straight 1600m track,  maintained by    25 full-time staff.       Maisons-Laffitte    The first official races in France took place on the Achères plain, close to the Chateau at Maisons-Laffitte, and its 320-acre estate remains today exactly as it was then, now home to 20km of turf gallops, 10km of sand gallops, and 30km of warm-up tracks and access paths, with a 1.5km all-weather gallop. The important sub-structure of the grounds is the clay and limestone of the Paris Basin, like Chantilly and Deauville.         By 1881, regular race meetings led to a number of trainers setting up on the grounds of the racetrack and the 1800m Jacques Laffitte Avenue, running along the perimeter wall of the Château’s old park, became the first training track. It still remains the backbone of the training centre today. Soon after, training extended to the forest tracks of La Muette and Chaillou, as well as on the Achère grass track, and Rond Adam and Rond de l’Epine later followed for NH horses, who have traditionally dominated the horse numbers here. Rond Poniatowski and Rond Boileau were added for the Flat and in 1970 the training centre expanded for the last time with the laying down of the gallops Lamballe and Penthièvre. 2,500 horses are currently trained in the centre, where 85 trainers are based.       Pisa    The Pisa racecourse and training centre is set within the magnificent park of San Rossore, spanning almost 60,000 acres, and is considered to be Italy's finest training centre. The park itself stretches along the coast between Viareggio and Livorno and contains the largest pine forest in Tuscany. The racecourse was founded in 1829 and stages 50 days of racing, from October to April, and the Cotoni Straights were the first training tracks to be used there, in 1842. The training grounds were pronounced a national training centre by the Italian Jockey Club in 1887.       The gallops make good use of the natural gradients and drainage of the land, which sits on the most geologically historic of Europe's training centres, having been formed from countless natural disasters, flooding and the silting up of ancient shipping channels. What has been left behind as a sub-surface is fluvio-lacustrine, a rock that was once a riverbed, together with the more familiar mudstone and sand.       Since 1974 the centre has become a permanent base for many trainers, having always been a popular base for the winter season. In the winter of 1967/68 Vincent O'Brien sent over some of his team, which included Sir Ivor, who benefited from the mild climate to subsequently win The Derby.       New developments such as the Runway Track have since enhanced the historic facilities. The Cotoni consist of four straight turf tracks of 1900m, 12-30m  wide, and two 1900m fibresand slopes. There are also numerous pathways between tracks. An automatic irrigation system allows their use even during the summer season, when the ground remains perfect. At the end of the gallops is an area of 32,000sqm for horses to relax and cool off.       To the east of the racecourse is a 1500m round turf track, 12m wide, and within its centre is a matcing 1400m fibresand track. Set within a meadow are three NH corridors for the schooling and exercise of horses over hurdles and steeplechase fences.       In addition to the training grounds, the San Rossore estate includes an equine hospital and a centre of education for apprentice jockeys and stable staff, ensuring it will remain a hub for Italian trainers.       The Curragh    The Curragh training grounds, owned and managed by the Curragh Racecourse, are the second-largest in Europe, set in 1,500 acres and boasting 113km of grass gallops, alongside all-weather surfaces and peat gallops. Set on limestone, mudstone and sandstone, they require good drainage systems, but the Curragh Plain is naturally quick drying and offers a good cushion. All of the facilities are used daily by 1,000 horses in the care of 60 local trainers and a permanent team of 15 specialists, led by Pat Kelly, maintain the grounds all year round.       As well as 113km of turf gallops, which includes the famous 2000m woodchip Old Vic, there are 19km of peat gallops and eight all-weather tracks, made up of one polytrack, two fibresand and five woodchip. There are plenty of options for NH horses and a new 400m all-weather schooling strip has been added in recent years, with both Easyfix hurdles and Easyfix fences in place, complementing the extensive schooling facilities over both fences and hurdles already on offer.        As Curragh-based trainer John Oxx has pointed out, “Curragh Trainers are reaping the benefits of the significant investment in the facilities. The commitment to maintain and upkeep the gallops to the highest standards has ensured that trainers based on the Curragh continue to win top races all over the world.”       Newmarket    Geologically, Newmarket shares the same make-up underfoot as the Curragh, set on  limestone, mudstone and sandstone. It is the largest training area in the world and covers 2,500 acres and is used daily by 2,500 horses, in the care of 80 trainers based in the town. The town divides the training grounds into two, Bury side to the east and Racecourse side to the west. Each side is maintained by a skilled and dedicated team of 12 Heathmen, under the leadership of the training grounds manager, Nick Patton. Colin Driver oversees Bury side, Mick Hewitt Racecourse side and in charge of The Links is Rob Achner.       Owned and managed by the Jockey Club Estates, the grounds are carefully managed and, as in Lambourn, not every gallop is in use on a daily basis. Gallops can be open seasonally or alternated daily. They include 80km of turf gallops and over 22km of artificial tracks, linked by an extensive system of horsewalks, so that horses can pass through from one end of town to the other without going on a public road, other than to cross at a dedicated crossing. The grounds on each side are divided into three main categories - Winter (and Yearling) Ground, Spring Ground and Summer Ground.       The gallops are arranged to provide appropriate facilities for a horse’s age, sex and stage of career. No area of turf on the Heath is used more than once in any year, and much is used only every two years. Fresh ground is also provided each day as appropriate and gallops are closed if conditions are unsuitable. There are Gallops Boards, changed daily, to notify trainers which gallops are open.       For example, a 1600m Water Gallop is used in drought conditions on Racecourse side on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The Flat Gallop opens in March until the end of the Flat season and the 3200m Gallop is used in the summer when the Flat Gallop becomes too firm.        The Lilmkilns on Bury side offer 205 acres of grass gallops and the famed Warren Hill, which rises over 40m in the final 400m, has two artificial tracks, both 900m, one a Polytrack, the other a Mactrack. Trainers can also make use of a long Peat Moss Gallop of 3200m and the 1600m Long Hill Gallop is open when the Limkilns are closed.       While that may all sound confusing, with 2,500 horses resident, accommodating their needs, balanced with the upkeep and maintenance of the grounds, requires a fair level of knowledge and skill. And not every trainer in Newmarket is a Flat specialist - there are facilities for steeplechasers and hurdlers as well, based at The Links.       Lambourn    The varying gradients of the downland on which Lambourn sits is part of the Southern England Chalk Formation, but interestingly London Clay is also in the geological make-up. In 2006 the Jockey Club Estates took on the management of the 500 acres of training grounds and has since invested heavily in the Mandown Gallops, with two artificial gallops completely re-laid and two refurbished. This has resulted in an increase in the number of horses in training in Lambourn.       There are currently over 600 horses in training with the 30 trainers based in Lambourn. The grounds are also by used on a casual basis by up to 120 horses a month. Turf gallops and schooling grounds are available alongside artificial tracks and the Gallops Board notifies trainers which turf gallops are open. Also similar to Newmarket, horses can move across the gallops safely on an increasingly extensive system of horsewalks.       The majority of the facilities are located on Mandown Gallops, to the north of Upper Lambourn, but there are also a 1200m fibresand gallop to the west, a 1500m Long Hedge Gallop to the east and the 1600m Polytrack at Kingsdown, north-west of Upper Lambourn. The team responsible for all of their maintenance are Gallopsmen, headed by Will Riggall.       NH horses, of which there are many, are catered for with a principal schooling ground consisting of a 300m all-weather strip, with three Easy-Fix chase fences and three Easy-Fix hurdles. There are also elsewhere four intermediate fences, four flights of hurdles, poles and barrels on the Aintree Ground and three flights of baby hurdles.       When it is not possible to use the main NH schooling ground, an area of training ground is leased privately by the Jockey Club Estates to which schooling facilities are transferred. This area is open from April/May to October/November.        Middleham Moor     The largest concentration of trainers in Britain is not to be found in Newmarket or Lambourn, but surprisingly in North Yorkshire, thanks to two historic training centres that have been home to Classic winners for 200 years. The area is rich in limestone, a key factor in attracting thoroughbred handlers to an area, and the origins of the thoroughbred are rooted here, with the Darley Arabian, Byerley Turk and Godolphin Arabian all based in North Yorkshire and mating with local mares.       100 trainers are based in North Yorkshire, with 3,300 horses in their charge, and Mark Johnston and Richard Fahey consistently send out over 100 winners a season, their own facilities complemented by the scenic gallops on Middleham Moor, some 50 acres set in Lower Wensleydale, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Running alongside the 400m-wide lengthy ridge of the Middleham Low Moor are the gallops most commonly used and the Middleham High Moor also provides a further choice of gallops and breathtaking scenery.       The Middleham Town Council has the responsibility of the area and takes great pride in the local employment and tourism generated by the training centre.       Malton    Malton is also part of North Yorkshire's training centre, although its best known Langton Wold gallops, 100 acres of downland, are just as close to the town of Norton, which is where most of the local trainers are based. Norton is separated from Malton by the River Derwent, and it's here within the town itself, as well as on the outskirts, visitors will find most of the stables and see strings of horses passing through the town every morning.         As well as the Langton Wold gallops, the area also offers the Highfield Gallops. The town of Malton itself is surrounded by rural farmland and has been associated with the training of thoroughbreds for more than 300 years. With 30 trainers nearby and more than 1,000 horses, it is the third largest training centre in Britain and, like Middleham, comes under the governance of the Town Council.       Epsom    The historic Epsom Downs houses the third-largest racehorse training centre in Britain. While the Common lies on thick London Clay, the Downs themselves are on excellently natural-draining chalkland. Managed by the Jockey Club Estates, there are currently 11 local trainers and up to 200 horses using the gallops, which cover 250 acres. There are over 5km of artificial gallops and 10km of turf gallops.       The last Derby winner to be trained locally was April The Fifth in 1932, trained by Tom Walls, but Classic success has been earned far more recently, when Epsom-based  Laura Mongan sent out Harbour Law to win the 2016 St Leger. It is always to be hoped that similar care and investment of the historic Epsom training grounds will lead to the same increase enjoyed by Lambourn, and its close proximity to London may also prove a positive factor, just as Hoppegarten is feeding off the vibrancy of nearby Berlin.
 

Click here to order this back issue!

 

Gallery

Why are Europe's public training areas so well known? Part of their uniqueness and fame rests with the very concept of public training grounds. There are very few public facilities throughout the world and the most common training practice is the use of racecourse tracks. In the majority of countries trainers are based at racetracks and simply use the racecourse facilities.

While many of Europe's renowned training centres are situated close to a racecourse, or are run in conjunction with that track, they are, nevertheless, separate facilities offering a wide choice of gallops and surface, often over a vast acreage. The benefit to the horse is variety and change of scenery without impacting on its daily routine or necessitating travel. For the trainer, a choice of gallops and surfaces can be tailored to a horse's individual needs and prevailing weather.

Hoppegarten

Typical of this, though less widely known, is Hoppegarten in Germany, where 13-20 public trainers are based. A common factor shared by many of Europe's renowned gallops is Hoppegarten's sand-based subsoil, allowing the racecourse track and various gallops to drain freely. As a result, coupled with modern artificial watering systems employed by groundsmen in drying weather, extreme ground conditions are avoided and consistent work surfaces are provided all year round.

Hoppegarten is home to the biggest training grounds in Germany, encompassing over 500 acres of woodland, with 10km of walking and trotting paths, and since 2013 it has been granted the status of a Landmark of National Importance.

To read more about iconic gallops across Europe - subscribe now!