Kempton '50-50' but hopes still rising

The persistent cold spell has already eaten into the Christmas programme but officials at Kempton remain hopeful about their prospects of staging the prestigious William Hill King George VI Chase meeting on St Stephen's Day.

Kempton '50-50' but hopes still rising

The persistent cold spell has already eaten into the Christmas programme but officials at Kempton remain hopeful about their prospects of staging the prestigious William Hill King George VI Chase meeting on St Stephen's Day.

The meetings at Market Rasen and Towcester have already gone, inspections have been called at Wetherby, Wincanton and Huntingdon, although Fontwell are upbeat.

There was a noticeable improvement in conditions at Kempton today and while clerk of the course Barney Clifford describes the chances of racing on Sunday as “50-50” he said they would pull out all the stops to try to ensure the meeting goes ahead as scheduled.

“We’ve had a good thaw here. There’s still a couple of centimetres of snow on the track, but you can see the black covers poking through in areas which is encouraging,” he said.

“We never got above 2C over the last 36 hours so it’s encouraging to see seven centimetres of snow disappear.

“We’ve still got a way to go. We’ve got a couple of minus figures forecast the next couple of nights, so we’ll monitor the situation on a daily basis.

“One would have to be optimistic. It’s a 50-50 call, but we’ll do everything in our power to try to get it on.

“We’ll see what the forecast says. It has been quite volatile over the last three weeks or so and we’ll just see what it brings.”

Wetherby’s meeting on St Stephen's Day is in doubt with officials staging a 1.30pm inspection on Thursday.

The West Yorkshire track is due to play host to the valuable coral.co.uk Rowland Meyrick Chase, but the chances of racing going ahead look very doubtful with the course currently frozen under the protective covers.

“Through Sunday night and Monday night it was minus 10C all night long and last night it was minus 9C until midnight before warming up to minus 2C at daybreak,” said clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson.

“We’ve decided to hold an inspection on Thursday because the forecast is not looking overly good for Christmas Eve.

“I’ve had a walk around the track this afternoon and some areas are actually worse than I expected them to be.

“We’ll take a look and see where we are. If the forecast is improving we’ll have a look again the next day, or go to Boxing Day.”

Officials at Wincanton will stage an 8am inspection on Thursday to assess prospects for their card.

The course is currently covered in five inches of snow and with temperatures not forecast to rise dramatically, clerk of the course Barry Johnson is pessimistic.

“It’s not looking good as there is not really any sign that the snow is going to thaw much before Boxing Day,” said Johnson.

“There is no point prolonging things. We’ll speak to the forecasters again Thursday morning, and if they give us a glimmer of hope, we’ll sit tight.”

Huntingdon’s St Stephen's Day meeting hinges on a 12pm inspection on Christmas Eve.

Although the entire course has been covered in fleece since last Thursday, there is still an element of doubt about the fixture going ahead.

Clerk of the course Andrew Morris explained: “The forecast is for marginal improvement in temperature but, at this stage, it would be hard to be confident it would be enough to thaw parts of the ground.

“That said, any decision taken before Christmas Eve would be premature.”

After Towcester were forced to pull the plug on Tuesday, frost and snow put paid to Market Rasen’s Christmas fixture.

Fontwell was reported to be raceable under the covers on Wednesday with no frost in the ground.

Although there was still some snow on the course, a thaw had set in. Extra covers are being laid on Thursday to provide further protection from the frost forecast at the weekend.

It is a similar picture in Ireland with Leopardstown and Limerick attempting to put alternative plans into place after losing the first day of their prestigious fixtures.

Leopardstown’s St Stephen's Day fixture has been postponed and rescheduled for Thursday, December 30.

The course is currently unfit for racing and, with little improvement expected within the next few days, officials have made the early decision to call off the meeting and move it to a later date.

The Dublin track has other contingency plans should any of the three remaining days have to be changed.

At Limerick, Sunday’s card has been cancelled and an inspection will be held that day to assess the prospects of racing on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Chepstow’s Coral Welsh National meeting on Monday is in doubt with a midday inspection called on Thursday and Kelso are to inspect on Friday ahead of their meeting next Wednesday.

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