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It is possible that there will be the return of turf racing at Ayr this afternoon, but the meeting is subject to a second inspection at 1045. Clerk of the course Emma Morley looked at 0730, before reporting that temperatures had fallen to -2?C overnight, had risen to freezing point, and were due to rise a further couple of degrees. It’s possible.
Elsewhere, prospects remain bleak for the next few days, with tomorrow’s cards at Fakenham and Warwick abandoned long ago, and Friday’s Doncaster card almost certain to join them, and Huntingdon not looking much more likely to go ahead.
Many trainers are taking particular interest in the forecast for Gloucestershire, where Cheltenham is due to hold its annual Festival Trials Day on Saturday. Or maybe on Sunday. The British Horseracing Authority yesterday agreed that if the meeting falls to the weather on Saturday it could be put back 24 hours.
Of course, just about everyone would prefer racing to take place as planned on Saturday. That would guarantee coverage of the meeting on Channel 4, something Jamie Aitchison, sports editor for the broadcaster, could not do if the contingency plan has to be brought into play. He said, “We would like Cheltenham on this Saturday as it’s preferential for any broadcaster to stick with programme they have billed. It’s not as simple as just replacing one thing in the schedule with another but, as we did with the Welsh National, we will work as best we can to help.” You bet your life they will – the last thing Channel 4 wants so early in its new contract is criticism that it doesn’t have the flexibility to support racing effectively.
For Ruby Walsh, though, a postponement to Sunday could prove a blessing. The Irish authorities have brought forward the Frank Ward Solicitors Irish Arkle to Saturday because a forecast of heavy rain towards the end of the week could make the ground on the chase course at Leopardstown unraceable by Sunday. There are no worries for the hurdle races, as Leopardstown uses a different hurdles track on each of the two days. Racing Manager Nessa Joyce said, “There is significant rain forecast to come up from the south from Thursday and the fear is that once the ground has been opened up again on the chase course, having been raced on at Christmas, it won’t take any rain that comes on Saturday night.
If Trials Day goes ahead on Saturday, Walsh will have to choose between rides on Tidal Bay and Sanctuaire at Cheltenham, and Boston Bob and Arkle favourite Arvika Legionierre in Ireland.
He was giving no clues as to his thinking yesterday, preferring to concentrate on Hurricane Fly, who runs on Sunday in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle. Walsh said, “He won well at Christmas but no more than was expected really. He does seem better than last, though. He’s more settled and you’d have to be impressed with the way he quickened up last time.”