According to trainers, owners and spectators at this year's Cheltenham Festival, the courses at the 600-acre Gloucestershire site have never looked so good. For the past two years the team at the home of jump racing has been overseeding with a Barenbrug grass mixture that has significantly improved the ground coverage and appearance on all three courses.
Head groundsman Tony Howland explains. "I used to work at Warwick Racecourse and I wanted to improve the track there so I asked Barenbrug if they could recommend a grass mixture which could offer high wear tolerance, good winter establishment, excellent ground cover and a good winter colour. Racecourses need good ground covering to stand the wear and tear from horses' hooves, and also to act as a shock absorber for horses joints as they land.
"Barenbrug suggested BAR 7, a perennial ryegrass mix, which was ideal and did a superb job at Warwick. So when I came to Cheltenham in 2005, I decided to use the same mixture on all three courses here."
Tony overseeded the courses with BAR 7 in May 2005 and 2006 and is delighted with the results. "We saw good establishment in 7-10 days and the sward thickened up beautifully. It also has a good, mid to dark green winter colour. "I'll overseed with this mixture every May, which will gradually introduce stronger cultivars to replace the weaker ones.
"We've had some wonderful compliments from all sorts of people about how good the course is looking, so we know we've done a good job and got the seed just right."
Tony is also full of praise about the service and advice he has received from Barenbrug. "David Singleton especially has been very hands on and supportive and his technical know-how is second to none. In July, the company is taking me to Barenbrug Research in Holland, so I can see first hand the complex processes they go through to breed a new cultivar. I'm really looking forward to that."