Rigby Taylor At Brighton Racecourse: If Richard Langley has any secrets to his success as head groundsman at Brighton Racecourse “then it must be the benefits of continually feeding the track all year-round”, he says.
As Richard now looks forward to “really ramping up” track maintenance in March, in preparation for the 2019 flat season that starts in April and will see the south coast venue host around 20 meetings, Richard says that his non-stop use of fertilisers (and lots of other products from Rigby Taylor) will ensure the sward “is always strong as we move towards another new season”.
He continues: “I will feed once a month from October through to February, alternating between the various Microflow-CXS slow-release fertilisers – which contain chelated trace elements including copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Plus I will use microstimulants such as Amino-Form LX, an amino acid-based supplement that improves stress resistance and enhances recovery from drought, heat, cold and wear, for instance.
“Then in March I’ll start to increase the levels of nitrogen, to give the track a real boost, and feed every three weeks for the remaining months.
“I’ve found that liquid feeding is the most cost-effective way to use fertilisers and lots of other treatments; it is more accurate and targets the plant more effectively, meaning that, for example, it reduces the amount of strimming needed under the rails because we are not ‘throwing’ products on haphazardly.
“In addition to enabling the plant to quickly absorb the feed, spraying also allows me to mix other treatments including wetting agents (like Breaker) and iron products (Magnet) in the same tank, so again reducing workloads.
“The racecourse is located within the South Downs National Park and we therefore have a responsibility to protect the environment. We continually try to reduce our impact and improve our environmental performance through our operating methods, and part of this is to use suppliers and products that fit within this strategy.”
With a background in farming before entering racecourse groundsmanship as a full-time job in 1996 at Wolverhampton Racecourse – followed by a period at Kempton Park before joining Brighton in 2010 – Richard reflects that his transition from agriculture to race track maintenance wasn’t daunting:
“With my experience at growing crops such as sugar beet, potatoes, wheat and barley, I found growing grass a very similar regime – even though Wolverhampton is now an all-weather track, I was lucky enough to maintain the turf for the last few National Hunt races staged there”.
Upon his move to the south coast, to a 1.5 mile ‘horse shoe’ track that sits on the edge of the South Downs and 400 feet above sea level, Richard’s experience with Rigby Taylor’s range of sports turf products at Kempton Park was immediately applied at Brighton, where he and a team of three grounds staff maintain the base sward of meadow and downland grass.
“I have been lucky in that the management here have allowed me to do whatever is needed to improve the racing surface and I employ a host of Rigby Taylor products to achieve that. I’ve used other companies’ products in the past but haven’t received the same excellent level of support that I receive from Rigby Taylor’s technical representative Corin Beeney.
“We overseed with Rigby Taylor’s R25 100 per cent perennial rye that features creeping and tetraploid rye. This not only germinates and shows root recovery at temperatures from 5 degC but it also offers great wear tolerance and excellent resistance to drought and disease.
“I’d say the track is now predominantly rye. We normally keep it at 2 inches high in the off season and 3.5 to 4 inches for racing, though for last summer (2018) it was at 4.5 inches in an attempt to keep the moisture in during those weeks of very high temperatures. At that time we also used a divot mix with less sand content – again to try and hold in as much moisture as we could and, in turn, reduce the need for watering.
“That said, the sward stayed healthy all year [helped, no doubt, by the feeding regime] and we didn’t really struggle to maintain a good racing surface during the summer. I think the challenges we faced here last year did not compare to a lot of other venues simply because the sward was well-prepared over the winter and going into the spring.”
While being in such an elevated position and open to the wind means spraying has to be performed at selected times, Richard also highlights chafer grubs and leatherjackets as perhaps two threats that are always in his mind. “But I’m confident that our past applications of treatments have done enough to disrupt the lifecycles of the grubs for the foreseeable future”, he says, and the indigenous birdlife is always encouraged to help themselves to the crane flies!
For race meetings, Richard says the long hours – a 5am start through ‘till when the required remedial works are complete, some of which can lead into the following day – can be onerous, as well as his team’s involvement in non-racing events such as music concerts. “But we love it”.
For more information, visit: www.rigbytaylor.com
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