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It’s really unfortunate for the track, as it faced a loss of £6m after similar flooding in the summer of 2007. Nathan Corden, one of the staff members at Southwell, told the BBC that the Environment Agency had said they could expect serious flooding once every 50 years, yet they were having to pump millions of gallons of water away just five years later.
The track has taken the opportunity of the enforced break to put down a new Fibresand surface. Last month’s snow and sudden thaw meant that a safety inspection by the British Horseracing Authority had to be put back, but it went ahead successfully a few days ago. Ironically, today’s jumps card, the first scheduled meeting following the go-ahead has fallen foul due to waterlogging.
When racing resumes tomorrow racegoers will find rather limited facilities available to them as Dave Roberts, managing director for ARC in the midlands explained. “We’re delighted to be open and racing again, albeit with a restricted offering on the first floor only. It will still be some time before we are able to open and offer all of our facilities and restaurants on offer.”
Scott Dixon and Alan McCabe both train near Southwell. They sent horses along to try out the new surface with BHA inspectors looking on. Both were happy with the track, with Dixon saying, “I took six horses to Southwell and my staff said it rode well. All the jockeys seemed happy and it will be good to get back there next week. It’s my winningmost track and I have missed it.”
So too is Newmarket handler Don Cantillon, who has his name in racing’s record books. His 10-year-old gelding La Estrella is unbeaten at Southwell since November 2008, winning 13 successive races there in the last four years. That’s the longest unbeaten sequence at a single course ever. Cantillon plans to bring La Estrella back to Southwell for a two-mile claimer on 19 February, but as he explained, the sequence almost didn’t get under way at all. He said, “We nearly gave him away as a riding horse in 2008 when he had problems but we noticed he was lame going on to the box. I said I would have to hang on to him a little longer. Since then he has won us 14 races.”
La Estrella might not make to SOTD, but it will be a brave man who bets against him extending his Southwell achievements.