Racing facing another whiteout

RACING is facing a second successive whiteout after widespread snow led to a blank afternoon in Britain yesterday.

RACING is facing a second successive whiteout after widespread snow led to a blank afternoon in Britain yesterday.

While Chepstow’s jumps card was an early casualty yesterday morning, even the all-weather meetings at Wolverhampton and Lingfield were unable to cope. All three of today’s jumping fixtures at Taunton, Haydock and Ascot have also been abandoned, leaving just the Kempton and Lingfield Polytracks to try to beat the weather.

However, the British Horseracing Authority has taken swift steps to put on extra fixtures as well as rescheduling the Victor Chandler Chase from Ascot to Cheltenham on Saturday week.

Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial has been switched to next weekend’s Doncaster meeting, an additional all-weather fixture has been arranged for Wolverhampton on Tuesday, while Ayr is to stage a jumps card on Wednesday.

Although many parts of the country are currently covered by snow, the Scottish track remains raceable, prompting the BHA to bring in an extra meeting. Ayr clerk of the course Emma Marley said: “With racing caught in the grip of snow and frost which has swept the rest of the country, we are delighted to be in a position to stage an additional fixture.” Entries for the six-race card will close at noon today, with declaration time 10am on Tuesday.

Wolverhampton’s card yesterday was lost after clerk of the course Fergus Cameron called off proceedings following a second inspection. He said: “We have had getting on for two inches of snow already and unfortunately it’s falling faster than we can keep up with it.”

It was a similar situation at Lingfield, with clerk Neil MacKenzie Ross forced to admit defeat after staging inspections at 8am, 10am and 11am. He said: “While it is not particularly heavy snow, it is coming down continuously which means we aren’t able to keep the track safe and fit.” The track is also due to race today and a 7am inspection has been called to assess the conditions.

Kempton’s all-weather meeting today is also in doubt after officials called a 7.30am inspection due to the track being covered in snow. They are also due to race there tomorrow.

Sprinter Sacre was due to appear in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot but the writing was on the wall well before a planned 4.30pm inspection.

Clerk of the course Chris Stickels said: “We went out to take a look just after 11.30am and the snow was still coming down very heavily. There are two inches of snow on parts of the track and we can’t cope with that.” Kirkland Tellwright made an early call before an 8.30am inspection at Haydock, and said: “We have to be realistic, we are white over now and could not race.”

Taunton’s clerk Michael Trickey said: “We’ve had about three inches of snow and it would be foolhardy to continue.”

It looks unlikely Leicester or Wetherby will race on Tuesday, either. Leicester’s clerk Jimmy Stevenson has called an inspection for 9am tomorrow with the turf partly frozen and under a blanket of snow.

He said: “We could do with the snow turning to rain, as it clears quite quickly when that happens, but it doesn’t look like it will. It needs a miracle.”

Officials at Wetherby are downbeat about their chances on the same afternoon, and they will inspect at 11am on tomorrow. Clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson said: “We have a covering of snow. We are also frozen in one or two places and obviously there is further snow forecast for any time from tonight until Sunday. The daytime temperatures are only zero and the night time temperatures are around minus 1C.

“There is not enough optimism in that forecast to suggest we’ll be racing on Tuesday I’m afraid.”

The situation is only slightly better in Ireland with Naas staging a precautionary inspection at 8am ahead of today’s meeting and tomorrow’s card at Fairyhouse subject to a 2pm call this afternoon. The course there was raceable yesterday but further rain would put the card in jeopardy.