Ayr all set for weekend racing

Ayr’s gamble of staging an extra jumps meeting on Saturday looks like paying off as the course is now raceable.

Ayr’s gamble of staging an extra jumps meeting on Saturday looks like paying off as the course is now raceable.

The Scottish fixture, sponsored by Blue Square, seems certain to go ahead to end a week long spell without National Hunt racing caused by freezing temperatures.

Kelso still hope their meeting tomorrow will beat the cold snap, though what happens overnight is crucial and an inspection is planned for 8.30am.

But at Ayr there are no such problems.

“It’s all thawed out and we were raceable today,” said clerk of the course Katherine Self.

“It’s soft, heavy in places but I would imagine it would ride a bit slower than that given the amount of frost we’ve had in it.

“We may get a slight air frost tonight of plus one. We were plus eight today, it will be similar tomorrow and plus nine forecast on Saturday.

“Now the track has fully thawed out we’ve got a good two days ahead of the racing now with no frost in the ground.

“The ground might be fairly testing but we’ve got a covering of grass and will be racing on fresh ground so I don’t expect any problems.”

Officials at Kelso are not as confident as only 95% of the track was raceable today.

“We’ve had a slight improvement but we’re still not quite there,” said clerk of the course Anthea Morshead.

“The highest it got to today was four degrees with a bit of breeze. For all that I’m disappointed we’re not completely there.

“The sky is clear at the moment which is not a great sign but the forecasters are saying there is some cloud cover that could converge and give us some protection tonight.

“That would keep the temperatures at around zero until about nine o’clock tomorrow morning and get up to plus three by noon and a maximum of four, so it could be a close one.

“I would say 95% of the track is absolutely fine but you don’t need that much that isn’t. There are a couple of areas that are worrying us and need improvement.”

Friday’s other jumps card at Huntingdon was abandoned earlier today while the fate of Saturday’s programmes at Warwick and Wetherby has yet to be decided.

Warwick will hold a further inspection at 8.30am tomorrow as officials are keen to save their biggest meeting of the year, featuring the totesport.com Classic Chase.

They do admit prospects remain slim as the course was still unraceable on Thursday afternoon.

“We have seen a slight improvement in track conditions. The track is still frozen in places and currently unraceable,” said clerk of the course Andrew Morris.

“Chances of racing currently remain slim and we need the forecast to be vastly wrong in terms of the temperatures.”

Wetherby hope to be in with a “fighting chance” of racing. With another frost forecast tonight, clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson will assess conditions tomorrow before issuing a further update.

“I just want to see what happens. If it’s minus three or four tonight it might put us back to square one and that would be the end of it. If not we’re with a fighting chance,” he said.

Conditions will also be assessed again on Friday at Carlisle where officials are cautiously optimistic of racing on Sunday.

“We’re soft but still partly frozen,” said clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch.

“We should get no worse than plus one tonight, up to plus four tomorrow and five or six on Saturday with some rain coming in the evening. We are mildly hopeful.

“We’ll have another look in the morning and take it from there. We might need to have to a look on Saturday to make sure we are going in the right direction, but it’s fingers crossed.”

The prospect of higher temperatures holds the key to the Irish fixtures at Punchestown on Saturday and Leopardstown on Sunday.

Parts of the course are frozen at Leopardstown but officials do not envisage any problems ahead of their big meeting featuring the Pierse Hurdle.

A severe overnight frost was reported at the track on Wednesday and more cold weather is forecast tonight, but temperatures are set to rise dramatically from Friday.

“Parts of the course are frozen at the moment. There’s frost due again tonight, but it is due to get much milder from Friday night onwards,” said general manager Tom Burke.

“The Met Office is looking at temperatures into double figures on Sunday. On the basis of that we do not foresee any problems at this stage.”

Officials at Punchestown hope the thaw arrives in time to save their Saturday programme and they are likely to call an inspection.

The track is currently unraceable and further frost is expected tonight before milder weather moves in on Friday night.

“We will need the weather to turn pretty quickly on Saturday morning for us to race. The fear is it might just be a little late but we’ll have to see,” said director of racing Richie Galway.

All-weather fixtures have kept racing ticking over since Saturday but even they are not immune from the British weather with fog causing the last race at Great Leigh to be abandoned today.

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