Horse racing: Musselburgh saves its showpiece jumps card

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DESPAIR turned to delight for Musselburgh yesterday as the East Lothian racecourse learned it has been granted an extra fixture slot this Saturday – meaning it can quickly salvage the £90,000 jumps card which was lost to the frost on Sunday.

The East Lothian track will rerun its John Smith’s Scottish Cheltenham Trials meeting after the British Horseracing Authority approved an application to hold an extra fixture.

With tomorrow’s meetings at Carlisle, Lingfield and Ludlow abandoned and inspections planned for Doncaster and Huntingdon’s meetings tomorrow, Musselburgh will take centre stage for hard-pressed trainers and owners desperate to field potential runners for the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.

The John Smith’s race day is Musselburgh’s feature jumps meeting of the season and the second-richest National Hunt fixture in Scotland. It is recognised as an important prep meeting for many stables before deciding which horses will go on to compete at the major Spring festivals.

Musselburgh Racecourse general manager, Bill Farnsworth, said: “We are delighted to get the green light from the BHA to stage this extra fixture and this decision will be welcomed across the racing industry. With numerous fixtures being disrupted across the country, there is a dire lack of opportunity for trainers and owners to field their favoured horses for Cheltenham and Aintree. I am sure this will be reflected in the quality and number of entries we receive for Saturday’s meeting, which will provide the ideal preparation for many horses destined for greater things.”

Musselburgh’s management were left frustrated and disappointed after an early morning inspection forced Sunday’s abandondment, with parts of the track remaining frozen and a danger to horses and jockeys. Pre-purchased tickets for the abandoned 5 February meeting can be used on Saturday or within 90 days, ie for any other meeting up to 4 May.

Meanwhile, one of the most durable members of the all-weather community will take centre stage today when Dvinsky competes for the 200th time in a race named in his honour at Kempton.

It is believed no horse has made as many starts in Britain before and the 11-year-old will bring down the curtain on the afternoon’s only meeting in division two of the Racing Dvinsky’s 200th Run Handicap. Dvinsky began his career with Gerard Butler and won a maiden at Goodwood on his second outing in the colours of renowned owner Michael Tabor, but had drifted through four other trainers before arriving at Paul Howling’s Newmarket stable in the winter of 2006.

He has won a total of 17 races, 13 of them for Howling, and spent brief periods with Jane Chapple-Hyam and Michael Squance when his long-standing trainer briefly relinquished his licence last year. “It’s nice to have a bit of recognition,” said Howling, who trains alongside Sir Henry Cecil at Warren Place. “He’s very easy to deal with. We never train him very hard, he’s very clean-winded and he’s better off just running on the racecourse.

“He’s quite clever and saves a bit for himself, which is probably why he has lasted so long.”

Kempton is an appropriate venue for the sprinter, who is known as Dave in the yard, to reach his milestone as eight of his victories have been on the Sunbury Polytrack and he was third on his most recent visit on 22 January. Dvinsky’s career earnings already exceed £111,000 and he will be partnered by regular jockey Tom McLaughlin against nine rivals. One of those, Vhujon, had the 100th start of his own career when fifth in Dvinsky’s most recent race.