A decade of planning and astute preparation came to fruition on an unusually warm Winter's morning at Hawkesbury, with the first hoof prints embedded in the Polytrack training surface.
The eagerly anticipated first work was a simple test run for a dozen or so locally trained horses, but each single and steady lap represented a milestone beyond comparison for the team behind Hawkesbury's synthetic masterpiece.
On hand to view the first work was Chief Executive Greg Rudolph, Martin Collins managing director Reid Sanders, Hawkesbury track manager Jeff Haynes, Business manager Lea Porteous, and the track team of Les Dorman, Gemma Magrin, Brendan Haynes, Adam Chan, Geoff Taylor and Luke Thomsen.
The group stood patiently as pairs of horses from neighboring stables ambled around to "the gap", where workers move efficiently on to each course each morning.
Brad Widdup, who has already made his own history with a remarkable breakthrough season of success from Platinum Park, will be able to brag as the first trainer to work on the track courtesy of Ajani, ridden by bush jockey Mikey Wade.
"Just a nice gentle jog Mikey" called Haynes, as nervous eyes followed the bay gelding towards the 1400m mark.
And the verdict?
"Feels incredible" replied Wade.
The near silent movement of horses across the surface defies the natural soundtrack of a racehorse at canter, with only the chorus of breath to be heard as a horse passes.
"Being so quiet to gallop on, you can easily tell how your horse is breathing, which is really important" said Wade after dismounting.
Joining Wade was popular Chinese-born apprentice Qin Yong, who rode Underground for Widdup, before a cavalry arrived from the Singleton, Vigouroux, Kearney, Green, Somers, Vella and Nutman stables followed.
"The addition of a synthetic training surface is an enormous boost for the club’s training facilities." commented Greg Rudolph.
"With the next project being the building of 50 on course stables, Hawkesbury will be the ideal place to train, with excellent facilities and access to a number of race tracks within a couple of hours travel time."
The first official day of training on the Polytrack will be on Wednesday morning, a "slow work" morning with horses working around half pace. The track will be maintained three times per week with the Gallop Master, an invention of Martin Collins, which keeps the surface groomed, level and compacted.
HEADER PHOTO: Greg Rudolph (HRC CEO), Reid Sanders (Managing Director of Martin Collins), Jeff Haynes (HRC Track Manager), Les Dorman, Gemma Magrin, Brendan Haynes, Adam Chan, Geoff Taylor and Luke Thomsen on the Polytrack on Monday, June 4.