Ascot Racecourse Retractable Turf Crossing

20 years before our groundbreaking retractable pitch rolled out at Tottenham Hotspur, the engineers here at SCX were busy creating another sporting first... this time at Ascot, and horseracing's first movable racecourse.

The Challenge

Access roads cutting across racecourses are commonplace, yet they are also hazardous to galloping horses and their riders. Ascot Racecourse previously used a range of infill materials, topped with fibre matting designed to simulate track conditions, to cover its access road surfaces.

However, the matting was a poor substitute for shock absorbent turf and provided the horses with limited protection during a race, causing them to break stride as they felt the change in terrain.

The Solution

SCX engineered and installed a retractable section of racecourse, running on steel rails embedded in the access road, and finished with a real turf surface. Over 200 tonnes, and measuring 54m long by 4.5m wide, it was the first moveable course section in horseracing.

Without the innovation of the retractable crossing, improving the quality and safety of access to the racecourse would have involved the costly construction of road bridges or underpasses.

Engineering the perfect fit

  • Hydraulic actuators raise and lower the turf tray, acting on the wheel axles to pivot them downwards and upwards
  • 16 electric motors traverse the unit along steel rails embedded in the access road
  • A wedge-shaped cross section, similar to the keystone on a bridge, ensures a tight fit – necessary to eliminate any changes in level that the horses’ hooves might otherwise catch on


The going is good

  • A special membrane developed in conjunction with the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) supports the upper portion of the turf tray
  • This membrane, plus the turf layer on top, ensures that the tray’s steelwork sits well below where the horses’ galloping hooves can penetrate
  • The layered turf is tough enough to withstand regular use, light enough to be moved into and out of position, and mimics track conditions perfectly


Disappearing from view

  • The automated deployment sequence takes 15 minutes in total, and triggered using a radio controlled pendant
  • Radio control gives the operator freedom to move around the tray and ensure a safe deployment
  • When the access road needs to be opened, the tray retracts back into a dedicated parking bay


Let's talk more about kinetic architecture

We love making things move. And usually, they're very big things that need to move very safely.

Kinetic architecture refers to giving structures the ability to change their shape. From Ascot Racecourse to our world-first retractable pitch at Tottenham Hotspur, we've made things move for the last three decades.Talk to us today.

Call us on +44 114 262 6199, email us at, or complete the contact form below and we'll be in touch.

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SCX Special Projects Ltd

Roman Ridge Road, Sheffield, S9 1GA, United Kingdom

t:  +44 (0)114 262 6199