Cheltenham and Doncaster optimistic ahead of weekend fixtures

Officials at Cheltenham and Doncaster are optimistic this weekend’s high-profile fixtures will go ahead as scheduled with temperatures across the country set to rise in the coming days.

National Hunt fans have been starved of action in the past week, with Hereford’s meeting last Monday followed by six consecutive days of no jumps racing in Britain.

Ffos Las got the show back on the road on Monday afternoon, but Tuesday’s cards at Exeter, Leicester and a rearranged fixture at Market Rasen have all been abandoned, while racing at Warwick on Wednesday is subject to an inspection at noon on Tuesday.

Beyond that, however, forecasts suggest temperatures will stay above freezing for the remainder of the week, which will undoubtedly be a big relief to the teams at Cheltenham and Doncaster in particular.

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With the Grade One Clarence House Chase saved and rescheduled from last weekend’s abandoned meeting at Ascot, Cheltenham is set to play host to a bumper nine-race card that also features a recognised Gold Cup trial in the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase and the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle.

And while parts of the Prestbury Park circuit remained frozen on Monday afternoon, clerk of the course Jon Pullin is hopeful the weather will not pose any problems.

He said: “We’re currently frozen following some frosts over the weekend, but the situation does improve, certainly from Wednesday onwards.

“We are forecast another frost this evening, getting down to minus 3C/minus 4C, but then things improve and from Wednesday daytime temperatures are due to rise to plus 6C or plus 7C.

“We could get down to around zero on Thursday and Friday night, but again temperatures are forecast to get back up to plus 6C or 7C on Saturday. If the forecast is correct, we’re hopeful that we’ll be OK.

“We’ve got nine great races, we’re delighted with the entries and obviously we’re really pleased to be able to stage the Clarence House.”

Racing at Doncaster
Racing at Doncaster (Tim Goode/PA)

Doncaster is set to stage a quality two-day fixture on Friday and Saturday, with Saturday’s fare particularly mouthwatering.

The £100,000 Sky Bet Chase is supported by a trio of Grade Two contests, with the presence of 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante in the Sky Bet Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle an added bonus.

Clerk of the course Paul Barker said: “We’re currently frozen in places and on the areas of the track that have thawed we’ve got good ground.

“It’s 6C today, so it’s a nice thawing day, and the forecast is saying tonight is probably the last chance of us getting a frost this week. Thereafter temperatures increase to 9C or possibly 10C on Wednesday and the thaw will continue through to racing.

“It was nice to see Epatante entered this morning and 22 stood their ground for the Sky Bet Chase. Over the two days we have some very competitive racing, which is great.”

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