Horse racing: Musselburgh frosted out but Punchestown saves the day

MUSSELBURGH suffered a blow yesterday when the East Lothian course’s most prestigious jumps fixture of the season was abandoned due to frost.

The track had been due to host a number of Cheltenham Festival hopefuls at what is billed as Trials Day for the four-day National Hunt extravaganza at Prestbury Park next month. Several top stables were sending runners to participate in the card which featured the Scottish Champion Chase, Scottish Triumph Hurdle and Scottish County Hurdle – all £20,000 contests sponsored by John Smith’s.

But officials at Musselburgh were forced to call off the meeting after freezing conditions over the weekend. Temperatures fell to minus 1C overnight on Saturday and clerk of the course Harriet Graham said: “We were tantalisingly close, but we’ve still got frozen places and have abandoned. Unfortunately it got to minus 1C overnight and we are not due to get warmer temperatures until midday. It is really frustrating.”

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However, Ayr’s meeting today is seemingly under no threat from the weather and no inspection is planned. The whole track is frost free and raceable after warmer temperatures moved in overnight.

Clerk of the course Emma Marley said: “It was 2C overnight and warmer temperatures have moved in. I think the weather on the west coast is better than anywhere else in the UK. It was 7C yesterday which helped massively with the thaw and we are perfectly raceable now.

“It will be 3C tonight and is due to be dry with sunny spells tomorrow. We have no inspection planned.”

Punchestown was the saviour on a decimated weekend for racing as the British jumps calendar, including Saturday’s big meetings at Ffos Las and Sandown, was wiped out due to the cold snap. The card in Ireland did not disappoint, either, as reigning champion chaser Sizing Europe turned in another masterclass to easily outgun his old rival, Big Zeb, in the Tied Cottage Chase.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained ten-year-old dismissed Colm Murphy’s 2010 Queen Mother winner with relative ease in what turned into a straight shootout in the Grade Two heat.