Thursday 14 December 2017

Cold snap continues to cause havoc

FREEZING temperatures are continuing to cause problems for National Hunt racing in England ahead of one of the most crucial weekends of the season so far.

The cold snap set in during the middle of last week and has already claimed a number of meetings, including tomorrow's Ludlow, Lingfield and Carlisle cards, with snow that fell during Saturday worsening matters.

Everyone involved with the sport will be praying for a break in the weather ahead of Newbury's 'Super Saturday' meeting, which is set to showcase the talents of the likes of Long Run and Sprinter Sacre.

Newbury clerk of the course Richard Osgood said: "There is an east-west divide in the forecast but I don't think it will be as cold as it was last week. But that changes from day to day."

With forecasts suggesting there are more frosty nights in store, Monday's fixture at Ayr could prove to be the final jumps card to be run for a few days.

Lingfield's meeting tomorrow fell by the wayside yesterday and tomorrow's National Hunt fixture at Ludlow became the latest casualty of the cold snap today, along with Carlisle.

An 8am inspection had been called but after another night of freezing temperatures clerk of the course Bob Davies saw no point in prolonging matters.

"It is minus 4C here at the moment and the frost is three inches deep in places," said Davies. "We are forecast another cold night, so we've got no chance I'm afraid."

Carlisle has been abandoned due to another night of freezing temperatures with the thermometer touching minus 6C.

At Saturday's Newbury meeting, Ruby Walsh has come in for the plum ride on Zarkandar (pictured) after a change which allows the rider to defer a suspension that originally ruled him out of action this weekend.

Paul Nicholls' number one jockey picked up a three-day ban at Cheltenham last month and as there was originally no Grade One race on the 'Betfair Super Saturday' card, he was set to be on the sidelines.

However, after the British Horseracing Authority announced that the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices' Chase would be transferred from last Saturday's abandoned Sandown card to this weekend's fixture at Newbury, BHA rules state that Walsh can defer his ban on days where Grade One races are run.

Walsh was thrilled with the news, taking to Twitter and saying: "Looking like I have got a get out of jail card for Saturday! Grade 1 Scilly Isles is my ticket to at least take part. Happy days."

However, Zarkandar has not been trained with Saturday's valuable handicap as his highest priority -- although he could still easily turn out to be good enough to win.

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