The current cold snap has cast an icy chill over the racing industry, meaning Musselburgh’s John Smith’s Scottish Cheltenham Trials on Sunday, February 3 takes on extra significance.
The East Lothian course has established its own Cheltenham Trials as an important staging post to the Festival proper and is preparing to offer an opportunity for trainers desperate to give their horses an outing.
Racecourse boss Bill Farnsworth is keeping in close contact with the British Horseracing Authority and is ready to step in if further abandonments mean there is a requirement to stage an additional pre-Cheltenham trial race on the high quality card.
More than £100,000 of prize money is on offer at what will be Musselburgh’s richest jumps card. Three £20,000 races include the card highlight, the Class 2 John Smith’s Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial, the John Smith’s Scottish Champion Steeple Chase and the John Smith’s Scottish County Hurdle.
In keeping with providing a bona fide trial for Cheltenham prospects, Musselburgh has secured Cheltenham Festival sponsors Albert Bartlett, which supports a three-mile £12,000 novices’ hurdle race and the Country Gentleman’s Association which underwrites Scotland’s most valuable Hunter Chase, the £10,000 CGA Scottish Foxhunter Steeple Chase.
Farnsworth said: “We really sympathise with those courses which have had to abandon racing.
“It makes it even more imperative that trainers and jockeys get the chance to have a proper run out before Cheltenham. We have strengthened the card again this year by adding two new races, the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the CGA Scottish Foxhunter Steeple Chase, which is Scotland’s richest race for amateur jockeys.”