Horse racing: All-weather circuit saves the show

Rainy day: The runners in the Download The App Handicap Stakes at Lingfield yesterday are reflected in a large puddle as they turn into the straight. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty
Rainy day: The runners in the Download The App Handicap Stakes at Lingfield yesterday are reflected in a large puddle as they turn into the straight. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty
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OFFICIALS at Plumpton were set to stage a further inspection at 7am today ahead of the track’s planned high-profile fixture.

The West Sussex venue was due to stage a seven-race card this afternoon, featuring the At The Races Sussex National and clerk of the course Mark Cornford is keen to give the meeting every chance.

He said: “We are raceable, only just raceable, but raceable nonetheless, so we have to look again in the morning.

“There has not been any rain since daylight this morning and it’s blustery, so it could improve. Most forecasts say after midday today, we’re hardly going to get any rain at all until after racing starts. If that is the case, then we have a chance.

“We couldn’t handle any significant rainfall, but we’re an independent track, it’s a big day and we want to give it as much time as we can.”

Tomorrow’s meeting at Taunton has already been abandoned due to a waterlogged track. Clerk of the course Jason Loosemore called an inspection for 11am yesterday but, after further rain overnight, decided there was no point in delaying the inevitable and called off the fixture.

Loosemore said: “We’ve had 17 millimetres of rain since Friday morning and while it is due to be dry for most of today it is not going to improve sufficiently for racing to go ahead. It is disappointing, but it is the right call.”

And Ludlow’s meeting on Wednesday is already under threat from the exceptionally wet weather with an inspection called for 8.30 on Tuesday morning.

The course is currently heavy, waterlogged in places. The forecast is for heavy rain at times today and tomorrow with cloudy conditions coming in from Tuesday.

On the track yesterday, Brian Hughes enjoyed a red-letter day at Newcastle with a treble on Retrieve The Stick, Dingo Bay and Oleohneh.

Retrieve The Stick (11-8 favourite) got the ball rolling when following up a Kelso victory on Sunday with a game win in the Catherine Dornan 90th Birthday/EBF Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Hughes made it a brace on the John Wade-trained Dingo Bay, who put in a fine round of jumping to win the Barbour Handicap Chase for the second year running. The 9-4 favourite pulled clear from the second last to beat Samson Collonges by seven lengths.

Hughes and Jefferson combined again to take the concluding EBF Stallion Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race with 5-4 market leader Oleohneh.

At Lingfield, Castilo Del Diablo completed a profitable afternoon on the Polytrack for David Simcock by snaring the £45,000 Handicap.

The turf course remains saturated but the all-weather circuit was able to keep the racing show on the road with Newcastle’s jumping meeting the only other British fixture able to go ahead.

Castilo Del Diablo (9-2) had not won for more than a year, despite a sequence of placed efforts during 2013, but was held patiently on the inside by Jamie Spencer through most of the mile and a half before a perfect gap opened for him after the swing for home.

Connections of Modernstone, the 4-1 favourite, could feel slightly aggrieved as the fast-finishing 
runner-up was beaten only a nose with jockey Andrea Atzeni putting up 2lb overweight.

Simcock said: “I’m pleased they put such good prize money on and they were rewarded with a competitive field.

“The horse has been called a few names but I think he’s genuine. He’s better on all-weather than turf, so we’ll have to be looking towards back here Good Friday. I imagine we’d put him away during the summer.”

Spencer was penalised for his winning ride though, being found guilty of not giving his mount time to respond to the whip for which he incurred a three-day ban (18-20 January).