July 29, 2021

Newbury doubts for Saturday

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Newbury’s Betfair Super Saturday fixture is already in serious doubt after officials announced a course inspection for Friday morning.

The Berkshire circuit is due to stage a mouthwatering card, featuring the £125,000 Betfair Hurdle, as well as recognised trials for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Champion Chase in the shape of the Denman Chase and the Game Spirit Chase respectively.

Dual King George hero Clan Des Obeaux, last season’s RSA Chase winner Champ and superstar chaser Altior are just some of the big names who are set to be on show.

However, with the track already frozen in places under the frost covers and sub-zero temperatures forecast for the rest of the week, clerk of the course Keith Ottesen is not optimistic ahead of a Friday inspection at 8.30am.

He said: “It was only minus 2C overnight, but it didn’t get above zero on Tuesday, so it’s not just the night-time temperatures that are a problem.

“It’s a cumulative effect of the temperature zero or below for a number of days. You’ve got to cover up to give it every chance, but with the forecast the way it is, the fleece covers that we use don’t offer enough protection for such a prolonged period of cumulative frost.

“We haven’t got the best forecast going forward. It’s going to be very cold tonight and into Thursday morning, the same thing Friday night into Saturday and not much better Thursday into Friday.

“At this stage it’s far too early to do anything but to call an inspection for Friday, but really we need a change in the forecast to come.

“Unless there is a complete change, it will be a struggle.”

High-profile trainers Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson are among those calling for the major races to be rescheduled – and Ottesen revealed discussions are already under way about the possibility of the entire card being moved to a later date.

He added: “We’re definitely talking about it at the moment. We need a number of things to align.

“From a Newbury point of view, we’d like to run the whole day, rather than just move races here and there. We’re just working on whether we can reschedule the day in the next week when conditions allow.

“I can’t really say more than that at the moment. Obviously there’s TV, sponsors, the Levy Board and the BHA (involved). We’ve been talking about it all week to try to find a solution, obviously with the support of Betfair (sponsors).”

Wednesday’s all-weather fixture at Newcastle was called off due to snow.

The venue was due to stage a seven-race card, but overnight snow forced clerk of the course James Armstrong to take an initial look at 8am, before checking conditions again at 10am.

That second inspection showed the track was not fit for action and Armstrong abandoned the fixture, with an inspection called for 10am on Thursday ahead of the planned evening card that day.

Armstrong said: “We’ve had something like three inches of snow, but it’s powdery, dry stuff. It’s cold, the temperatures aren’t going to start rising until later this morning and there’s the possibility of more snow.

“We’ve worked the track, but it’s got into the surface profile and it’s starting to ball up a bit, so it’s a fairly easy decision to make really.

“We’ll inspect at 10am for tomorrow’s meeting. We’ll use the windows of sunshine today to work the track and try to help it thaw out.”

Wolverhampton’s evening card was also subject to a 10am check, but the fixture got the go-ahead.

There will be no jumps action in Britain on Thursday though, as Ffos Las’ meeting has been called off due to a frozen track.

Officials had hoped to escape the worst of the overnight freeze and called a precautionary inspection for 8.30am on Wednesday.

However, that check showed the track to be unraceable with little prospect of sufficient improvement.

The course tweeted: “Despite the huge efforts of our ground staff team to cover the course, tomorrow’s race meeting has been abandoned – parts of the track are frozen and temperatures are not forecast to rise sufficiently for it to thaw.”

Thursday’s Thurles card is also under threat, with a precautionary check planned for 7.30am on race day.

An Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board statement said: “Due to a Status Yellow weather warning in place for snow and ice, there will be a 7.30am precautionary inspection at Thurles tomorrow (Thursday) ahead of the fixture scheduled to take place.

“The track is currently fit for racing and the going is soft (chase) and soft to heavy (hurdle/bumper).”