Taunton’s richest-ever meeting tomorrow could be the best chance of any turf racing going ahead over the next few days, as Musselburgh’s fuxture for today joined a growing list of casualties of the freezing conditions.
Temperatures in Somerset are fairly tropical compared to most of the rest of the country but even Taunton is not completely safe, with a band of either snow or rain moving in.
Taunton groundsman Kevin Council said: “Whether we get rain or snow we’ll just have to see as it depends on which forecast you read. It is due to hit us early on Friday, so we should know by 10am where we stand. It’s our biggest raceday, so we’d love it to be on.”
Ascot’s meeting, which features Sprinter Sacre’s return in the Grade One Victor Chandler Chase, will need to survive a 4.30pm inspection today but snow is forecast.
Haydock tomorrow, due to stage the Peter Marsh Chase and a Champion Hurdle Trial, is in grave doubt. Having already survived one inspection, clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright will look at 8.30am today.
Meanwhile, trainer Willie Mullins has reiterated that Quevega is an unlikely runner in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on 14 March – despite her name appearing among a record number of 61 entries. The County Carlow handler has stated that a fifth win in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle is her priority, even though she is 5-1 ante-post favourite with the sponsors for the World Hurdle.
“You always need to have them entered,” Mullins said. “The transport on the way over for Tuesday could break down. At least we’d be in the World Hurdle but I can’t see us changing my plan. We’re not going to have a horse that’s been running all year that would have hard fitness. We’re just going to get her ready for one race, so I don’t think we’d run twice.”
Thousand Stars and Zaidpour are also among Mullins’ team of 10.
The absence of Big Buck’s, who had won the previous four World Hurdle renewals, means champion trainer Paul Nicholls will have to find a new leading stayer among his sextet. Classy chaser Kauto Stone and Lexus Chase winner Tidal Bay feature among his possible contenders, along with Aaim To Prosper, Celestial Halo, Prospect Wells and Wonderful Charm.
Long Walk Hurdle winner Reve De Sivola is there for Nick Williams and Mark Bradstock has entered the novice Coneygree. Noel Meade’s Monksland looks a major player after winning the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and is on target for the race.
Rite Of Passage, Champion Court, Bog Warrior, Cape Tribulation, Peddlers Cross, Dynaste and Grands Crus are also entered.
Alan King has elected to put four of his horses in the race, headed by Smad Place, who was third to Big Buck’s in the last World Hurdle, and Walkon, who has finished second in both the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the valuable equivalent at the December meeting.
Bensalem, who won a Grade Three handicap chase at the 2011 Festival, is the least likely participant.
12.50 Rio De Sivola
1.20 Greywell Boy
2.25 Wilde Ruby
3.35 Kap West
1.00 Noverre To Go,
2.35 Hiererach (nap)
3.10 Mawaakef (NB)
3.45 Dangerous Age
4.30 Slatey Hen
5.00 Holding Fast
5.30 El Bravo
6.00 Hiddon Coin
6.30 Lady Malet
7.00 Ace Master