sport

Weekend meetings on rain watch

National Hunt tracks continue to be on rain alert as the wet weather shows little sign of loosening its grip.

Meetings this week are struggling to keep pace with the threat of waterlogging and the three venues scheduled to host televised action on Saturday - Sandown, Ffos Las and Wetherby - have 'heavy' in the going description.

Sandown lost its January meeting through waterlogging, but officials at the Esher track are hopeful they can overcome it this time.

"It's one of those weeks when you are going to take each day as it comes. Weather of all sorts is going to be around this week," said clerk of the course Andrew Cooper.

"We are going to be at risk on each day, with a couple of frosty nights, and Friday could see one of the heaviest spells of rain of the week.

"We are raceable now, but there is enough rainfall in the forecast which means we are going to have to keep an eye on things.

"We are better placed probably than we were at this time leading up to the January meeting, but it depends what the weather does from now on."

Two of the feature races on the card, the Betfred "Double Delight" Contenders Hurdle and the Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices' Chase, have been re-opened until Tuesday morning after receiving insufficient entries.

The same applies to the totepool Towton Novices' Chase at Wetherby where officials are concerned about the possibility of more rain this week rather than any severe cold weather.

"We have standing water off the racing line at the minute. We've had 20 millimetres of rain over the weekend and all the dykes and ditches round here that we drain into are fairly full," said clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson.

"We wouldn't want to see much more rain. There is some forecast, so it's a watching brief.

"I thought it might be cold at the end of this week, that seems to have gone away, but we are looking at rain most days this week, some of it heavy tomorrow.

"We'll have to see what we get. If the rains come and the dykes haven't cleared then we could be in a far from ideal situation on Wednesday. Hopefully we won't be."

The track is currently "perfectly raceable" at Ffos Las ahead of its biggest jumps meeting of the year.

The ground is described as heavy with two drying days expected on Wednesday and Thursday, with further rain forecast later in the week, according to clerk Tim Long.

Coral Welsh Grand National hero Mountainous, co-owned by Ffos Las founder and chairman Dai Walters, is among 18 entries for the Burnes Pet Nutrition West Wales National along with last year's winner Carruthers.

Medinas, winner of the Burns Pet Nutrition Welsh Champion Hurdle 12 months ago, is one of 16 entries for this season's renewal as is the Walters-owned Whisper.

Tuesday's jumps card at Lingfield has been rained off while Taunton has felt it prudent to call a precautionary inspection at 7am due to the possibility of heavy rain.

"We are heavy at the moment and we've had a further two millimetres of rain today which isn't massive in itself and that's fine. The forecast has changed a little now. The BBC is indicating there is some heavy rain about," said clerk of the course Jason Loosemore.

Wednesday's meeting at Ludlow has been abandoned due to waterlogging and there is an 8am Tuesday inspection at Newcastle.

No inspection is planned for Wednesday's other jumps fixture at Leicester, but officials continue to monitor the situation.

The ground is described as heavy on the hurdles course and soft, heavy in places on the chase track.

Towcester will have to pass an 8am inspection on Wednesday if Thursday's meeting is to go ahead.

Officials at the Northamptonshire venue report the track to be waterlogged in places following 17 millimetres of rain over the weekend.