Ewart joins Tapeta club
James Ewart heads into the new season full of optimism after installing a state-of-the-art Tapeta gallop at his base in the Scottish Borders.
Ewart has had a good grounding for the training game, having worked under the likes of Nicky Henderson, Ferdy Murphy and multiple French champion trainer Guillaume Macaire before starting out on his own in 2004.
He has quickly built up a reputation as one of the most upwardly mobile young trainers on the northern circuit, saddling 23 winners out of his Langholm base during the last campaign with Quicuyo and Time Out flying the flag particularly well with four victories apiece.
Ewart is confident of beating that tally this season and feels privileged to become the first National Hunt trainer in Britain to have the Tapeta surface installed.
"We train in the Scottish Borders and first and foremost it is wonderful to have a Tapeta gallop in Scotland and I am very proud to have it here on the farm," said Ewart, speaking at a press morning at his yard.
"It's a Flat, oval gallop over five and a half furlongs. We've had a very wet winter so far, which means all the turf gallops you might utilise in a normal situation are terribly testing.
"We've now got this marvellous Tapeta gallop, which has allowed us to continue working horses on a surface you would consider good ground, when naturally we only have heavy ground. That is a huge bonus.
"We've only been using the gallop for about three weeks, but that is enough time to fully appreciate just how lucky we are to have it and to understand the benefits it's going to bring.
"The Tapeta gallop will keep us going when the ground is testing and it keeps us going on a particularly safe surface.
"One of the problems we had last season was that when the horses were fit, I had no option to gallop them on either heavy ground or the heavy sand gallop.
"That was taking too much out of the horses between races and this new gallop is going to make the horses lives much nicer in terms of training. Once they are fit, we don't want to pull the guts out of them between races.
"This is only the fourth Tapeta track in the UK, two are at Godolphin in Newmarket and the other is Mark Johnston's in Middleham.
"For us to have the fourth is a massive thing for us. The value will be exponential to the yard overall."
Tapeta is the brainchild of the legendary trainer Michael Dickinson, most famous for saddling the first five home in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The synthetic surface is used at Meydan racecourse in Dubai and at a number of venues in the States, and Dickinson is delighted to have added Ewart to his list of clients.
"We're in 10 countries around the world and Mark Johnston put our surface in four years ago. He has had 200 winners a few years running," said Dickinson.
"We have 100 racetracks in America and last year the Jockey Club did a survey of injuries in America, and our Tapeta surface came out top of the lot (for least injuries).
"The horses here at James's look extremely well. They are carrying a lot of condition and look fantastic in their coats. James was champion amateur in France and he is obviously a good horseman.
"He has studied under three trainers - Guillaume Macaire, Nicky Henderson and Ferdy Murphy. That is a very diverse group, they are all brilliant trainers and I am sure he will have covered every eventuality.
"He trains on a beautiful farm here. It's a very natural environment. I trained on a farm in America and I think it is a tremendous advantage, as you can do what you want.
"I first spoke to James about installing the surface six months ago and initially we said we couldn't do it as we were too busy.
"In the end, though, we were convinced to do it and we're very glad we have.
"There are only four Tapeta gallops in the UK. It is a very exclusive club. We don't allow just anybody in!"
While the likes of Quicuyo and Time Out will be back for more, it is his younger team of horses that is getting Ewart particularly excited.
"We have 35 horses in training and I think there's a few young horses to look out for," Ewart said.
"We have a very nice novice chaser called Lets Get Serious, who won his bumper at Cheltenham for Nicky Henderson. He'll run at Doncaster on November 30.
"We have an exceptionally nice novice hurdler called Lord Wishes, who won his two bumpers from two starts. He might go to Doncaster as well.
"We have a very exciting recruit from France who won his only start over hurdles called Rockawango and the handicapper to watch in the yard is Beneficial Reform.
"He was second to Air Force One at Doncaster last season and set the track record there over three miles as a novice. He's a very exciting individual. Hopefully, there is a lot to look forward to."