sport

Hopes high for big jumps cards

Officials at all three of Britain's jumps meetings on Saturday are showing a fighting spirit they believe will be rewarded.

No inspection is planned at either Ascot and Haydock, while Wincanton, where an all-hurdle card has been organised in an attempt to beat the rain, is sticking to its 7.30am precautionary inspection.

Though the going eased to heavy at Ascot after further rain on Friday, clerk of the course Chris Stickels does not feel the programme, featuring the Betfair Ascot Chase, is in danger.

"I've changed the ground to heavy following 10 millimetres of rain today," he said.

"No inspection is planned. We are expecting further showers and gales tomorrow, but the gales should die down by midday and if the forecast is correct we don't anticipate any problems."

The Betfred Grand National Trial is the centrepiece at Haydock where the track was expected to cope with more rain on Friday night.

"We are due a dollop of rain but we expect to race," said clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright.

"We might get a total of 11 millimetres today and another six tomorrow. It will be heavy."

Barry Johnson, clerk of the course at Wincanton, considers they have a "sporting chance" of seeing their card, headlined by the Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle, through.

"We're surviving, we're hanging on by the skin of our teeth," he said.

"We've had 19mm of rain today. We are raceable, we have some standing water, but less than we had at 1.30pm.

"We are due between five and 10mm overnight with gale-force winds. It's down to what we get overnight.

"I think we've got a really good sporting chance. We've got this far. With the strong wind you only need an hour of dryness and the strong wind squeezes the ground out again.

"Fingers crossed we'll give it every go and see where we are in the morning."

Ireland is not escaping the weather, with heavy rain jeopardising Saturday's meeting at Gowran, featuring the Red Mills Trial Hurdle, with officials calling an 8am inspection amid standing water on the track.

Groundsman Eddie Scally said: "It's the heavy rain we've been having, but we're hoping the track can dry out. We think we've a good chance of racing, but we're going to inspect in the morning and see."

No problems are foreseen for the meeting on Sunday at Navan featuring three Grade Two races, although the going is heavy.

"At the moment we are extremely confident," said racing manager Darren Lawlor.

"We've had just over 10mm of rain today. Nothing of any consequence is forecast, maybe 2mm to 3mm overnight with a relatively dry day tomorrow and dry on Sunday.

"We would have raced today and we don't envisage any problems for Sunday.

"It will be testing ground. We haven't had as much rain up at our end of the country and we can comfortably take what is forecast."

Monday's jumps meeting at Southwell is under threat with an inspection being called for 8am on Saturday.

The going was described on Friday afternoon as heavy, waterlogged in places, but clerk of the course Roderick Duncan is not without hope.

"With a bit of adjustment and omitting a couple of fences we could probably have raced today and I want to give it every chance," he said.

"We'll have a look to see what rain we get overnight. The forecast for Saturday is deteriorating a bit which is disconcerting and the forecast for Monday is not very good either.

"It will be just a case of looking in the morning, seeing where we are with the forecast as well as what rain we've had overnight."

Taunton is to stage an all-hurdle card on Tuesday after further rain left the chase course waterlogged.