Walk the turf

He has so much knowledge and experience that he can identify the condition of soil just by holding a handful of it to his nose and taking a whiff.

Mr Soh Shee , 72, the groundsman at Singapore Turf Club, looks after the racing venue's grass track.

He has been doing so for the last 20 years.

While tasks such as watering and spraying fertiliser on the grass is done by machines, weeding is one of the few things still done by hand.

Mr Soh is so familiar with the plants that he knows the weeds' medicinal properties and shared his recipes for herbal remedies made from these plants with a wide smile.

He said: "Once, I pulled out a small plant about 5cm tall whose roots stretched for 20m. I had to dig it out with my bare hands. It took me a good part of the day just to weed this one plant."

He is part of a team of nine groundsmen who cover about 400m of the 2km track in one day. It takes about a week for the team to service the full length of the track.

They slowly walk around keeping their eyes peeled for even the tiniest defects in the grass, which they then fix.

This is no ordinary grass. Known as El-Toro Zoysia, this species bred in the US is used specially for horse-racing tracks.

This "supergrass" is grown on a polytrack layer, with metal wire meshes woven into it. This gives a sturdy surface that can withstand the five tonnes of force that the 500kg horses exert while racing. 

It is unique because it grows to interlock with one another to create a crisscross grid-like "net" that prevents it from tearing easily.


For the first time, two-legged visitors will be able to wiggle their toes in the racecourse's grassy turf and experience for themselves this state-of-the-art track on Sunday, from 7am to 10am at the SG50 No Horse Run Community Walk.

During the 1.8km walk, they will be able to see groundsmen like Mr Soh prepare the track for a race that will happen later that day.

Mr K. Philip Thomas, manager of the tracks at the Turf Club, lauded the work of the groundsmen: "No matter how ready the horses are, if the ground is not prepared, the race cannot happen."

When his work was praised, Mr Soh said shyly: "My work is difficult, but I don't feel it's hard because of the people around me. Everyone knows each other here. This is my second home."

Visit www.turfclub.com.sg for more information on Sunday's walk.


This article was first published on Mar 19, 2015.
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