Weekend cards must battle rain

Rain continues to take its toll on the jumps programme but it is not all gloom and doom with several tracks expecting to get the go ahead.

Wednesday was a blank day for fans of the winter game, although National Hunt racing could resume at Wincanton on Thursday and hopes are reasonably optimistic at meetings due to take place later in the week.

The highest-profile fixture on Saturday is at Sandown, where officials at the Esher track are worried about the hurdles course and as a result have provisionally added three more chases to the card in an attempt to ensure the fixture goes ahead.

A similar contingency plan worked 12 months ago, and clerk of the course Andrew Cooper believes it is the right course of action to try to get racing on. The decision whether to implement the standby chases will be made at 9am on Friday.

Cooper, who later reported more rain on Wednesday afternoon than had been expected, said: "It just gives us a better chance of getting some racing on here than if we just sat on our hands and let the advertised card take its course at this stage.

"The going description on the hurdles course is heavy. I think it is at the stage where you would still get through it but its capacity to take any further rain would be less than the chase course overall. Even that is a heavy, soft mix."

Officials at Ffos Las are on "weather watch" ahead of their big jumps day on Saturday, featuring the Burns Pet Nutrition Welsh Champion Hurdle and West Wales National.

The course is currently raceable and dry weather is forecast until Friday when, like most areas of the UK, rain is set to hit the Carmarthenshire track.

"Conditions at the moment are raceable, albeit heavy ground. We are fortunately looking at a little bit of an interlude of a predominately dry 36-48 hours," said clerk of the course Tim Long.

"But the forecast through Friday into Saturday is not that great, so it's a watching brief for us.

"Obviously we will monitor the situation. If that forecast is still correct and we are getting heavy rain on Friday then we will probably say inspection first thing on Saturday morning, but I'm not pre-empting that.

"Depending on which forecast you look at we could get between 10 and 20 millimetres of rain on Friday. The bottom end of that would be fine, the top end I don't know. It could be a worry."

Friday's forecast rain is a potential stumbling block for Wetherby ahead of Saturday's card.

The West Yorkshire track has been raceable all week so far and while clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson believes it could take 10 millimetres, any more than that, or if it came down heavily on Friday, might pose a problem.

"Generally we are still soft, heavy in places. Friday, like everywhere, is due to be a horrible, wet day where we might get half an inch of rain, maybe more, maybe less," he said.

"I think the ground would take 10mm. If we get any more than that it would depend how quick it comes."

The British Horseracing Authority is taking no chances and has sanctioned an additional all-weather Flat meeting at Wolverhampton on Saturday.

Friday's rain is not causing officials at Musselburgh concern ahead of their Cheltenham Festival Trials Day on Sunday with the going described as good to soft on Wednesday afternoon.

Clerk of the course Harriet Graham said: "We have no worries at present.

"On Friday a band of rain is coming, but the Met Office says we are pretty sheltered and could get between two to eight millimetres.

"Hopefully we don't get too much rain on Friday but Musselburgh is one of the best draining courses and our all-weather bend really helps. We've also go a lot of fresh ground to use."

Thursday's meeting at Towcester has been washed-out, but Wincanton, where a precautionary inspection has been called for 7.30am, could stop the rot.

Clerk of the course Barry Johnson said: "The temperature is forecast to drop overnight, it's not going to freeze but the showers we have going through could turn to sleet.

"I'm sure we'll be fine, but I thought it best just to have a look in the morning."

Friday's rain should not affect that day's fixture at Catterick where the going is heavy on the chase course and heavy, soft in places on the hurdles track.

"I'm quite confident now. I was a bit jittery about frost but that seems to have gone and we are not due any rain now until Friday. We should be fine," said clerk of the course Fiona Needham.

However, there has been no such luck at a waterlogged Chepstow, whose Friday meeting was abandoned on Wednesday lunchtime.