Snow threat to weekend action
Britain's three jumps meetings on Saturday are bracing themselves for snow as the winter is set to take a turn for the worse.
Frost has been posing a problem after the prolonged wet spell but officials at Ascot, Haydock and Taunton are doing all they can in a bid to keep the show going.
Ascot, whose card features the Victor Chandler Chase, reports below zero temperatures at night, with daytime highs not getting above freezing and with snow in the forecast for Friday and Saturday.
"We were disappointed to see snow come into the equation again. We remain hopeful, but we've got to consider that racing has got to be under a bit of a threat for that forecast," said clerk of the course Chris Stickels on Wednesday afternoon.
"We don't want to take the covers off too soon because temperatures will remain below freezing, about minus 3C on Thursday night and Friday night.
"They will remain on for the moment and we will review the situation. I think we will end up leaving them down in case the snow doesn't come. We are obviously thinking about an inspection, but we were raceable today and will give an update on Thursday."
The Peter Marsh Chase is the highlight at Haydock, but an inspection has been called for 8.30am on Thursday.
Clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright said on Wednesday: "We had a hard night of frost last night and we've another one coming in, so we need to take stock of our circumstances. It's nip and tuck whether it was raceable today. If it's like that after one night we need to evaluate what it's like in the morning."
Officials at Taunton do not know what to expect, but remain hopeful racing will go ahead.
"We don't know whether we are going to be frozen off, snowed off, or waterlogged off as they are now saying this band of snow that we are on the very edge of could turn to rain," said clerk of the course Michael Trickey.
"At the moment we have been raceable and, much to our surprise and delight, we are still hanging in there. We will take the covers off on Friday because if it snows we wont be able to get them off.
"If it turns to rain on Friday night then we might be all right unless we get too much. At the moment things are going more in our favour."
Friday's meeting at Chepstow hinges on a midday inspection on Thursday. The course is already frozen in places and there could be snow to come.
"If we are still frozen tomorrow morning and there is still a strong forecast for snow then we would be pretty certain we'd be unraceable," said clerk of the course Keith Ottesen on Wednesday.
Musselburgh will have a look at 8am tomorrow ahead of their Friday card. Although prospects are highly unlikely at this stage, general manager Bill Farnsworth feels they have to give it a chance due to an uncertain weather forecast.
He said: "The track is frozen. Tomorrow it should be 3C and then there is a great deal of uncertainty about the forecast for Thursday night into Friday.
"The Met Office say they cannot give us an accurate forecast but we will all have a much better idea in the morning."
Officials at Wincanton are "hopeful" Thursday's meeting will survive an 8.30am precautionary inspection.
Temperatures dipped to minus 3C in the West Country on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning with a similar forecast overnight.
Clerk of the course Barry Johnson said: "We'll have a look at 8.30am when it's properly light so we can see everything but I'm hopeful we'll be OK."
The only other scheduled jumps meeting left for Thursday, at Ludlow, was abandoned on Wednesday morning due to a frozen track.