Jockeys and trainers issued glowing appraisals of Ffos Las after the Welsh track staged its inaugural Flat meeting yesterday.
Although a crowd of 3,500 failed to come close to a sell-out 10,000 at the first jumps fixture last month, the grandstand was packed for the opening six-furlong maiden.
Despite the course having been drenched by 51 millimetres of rain last Thursday night – a further 14mm fell in the 12 hours before racing – the going was no worse than good by the time the stalls opened.
Clerk of the course Tim Long commented: “On Friday morning, after all the rain on Thursday night, we were perfectly safe to race and the track was built to withstand that sort of rain.”
Although those in the grandstands had no big screen with which to follow the opener, connections of the winner, Our Dream Queen, watched the action closely and were full of praise for the new venue.
Charlie Hills, son and assistant to successful handler Barry Hills, said: “This is a very proud moment.
“Dad came and walked around the track before it opened and he thought it was top class.
“It does look a beautiful racecourse and is a lovely, flat track.”
Charlie Hills’ brother, Michael, rode Our Dream Queen.
He said: “Cantering down, I couldn’t believe how the ground has held together with a lot of rain.
“It rode good, but loose on top. It’s a lovely, fair track and I think it’s beautifully made.”
Barbados-born jockey Louis Beuzelin landed the first race on the round course aboard Hollow Green, trained in Monmouthshire by David Evans.
He commented: “I walked the track before racing and thought it was lovely – it is a pleasure to be here.
“The ground is lovely and it’s a lovely sweeping bend.
“You can get a nice position and take your time up the long straight.”
Ahmed Ajtebi finished the afternoon as the Welsh track’s leading rider thanks to a double aboard two Dandy Nicholls runners.
Ajtebi said: “It is my first time here and I think it is a lovely track – one of the best around.
“It was very level and is good for two-year-olds as it is very open and they can look around.”
David Probert provided the first winner with a Welsh connection as the Bargoed-born rider claimed the third event aboard Mijas Playa.
Probert commented: “It is a nice track and a great place.
“There are lots of people in this area who love racing, and the ground is good, which is amazing after all the rain they have had.”
Willie Carson and Joe Mercer, both former champion jockeys, made the trip along the M4 to visit the first new turf course to open since 1927.
Carson commented: “It looks a lovely, fair track and I wish I was riding.
“It would be great to find out where you should make the moves and how long you should wait.
“It looks a sharpish track, which will suit front runners – I think the sprinters will be able to ping off and go.
“We have had a lot of rain and the horses finished very quickly so it’s obviously well drained.”
Mercer added: “I have been very impressed with the course and think it is beautiful.
“We had a spin around in the car, walked a bit of the track and the ground is lovely.
“They are running into a head wind but are still clocking very good times - they could break world records here!”
Trainer Harry Dunlop mustered a second-place finish from Listillo in the five-furlong nursery.
He said: “I walked the track and obviously the most interesting thing is the ground.
“It is obviously very well drained here as, given the rain they’ve had, it’s just on the easy side of good, which is surprising.”
Hughie Morrison was another to make the frame with Cape Melody, and he said: “I’ve walked down the track and it has quite a firm base on it and has obviously taken the rain.
“The course is made to drain and, as a result, my fears of soft ground and nearly not coming were totally unfounded.
“We’ll definitely be coming back, but I’ll have to try and find a better way in from the M4 next time!”