How racing is beating the rain

Rain stopped play has often been heard on Radio 5’s cricket score updates, but in the last month is has been an ever more frequent call around Britain’s racetracks. Within the last week meetings at Stratford, Newcastle and Warwick have been abandoned, and today’s cards at Newton Abbot and Goodwood have gone the same way.

Things must be bad if a high ground, chalk based circuit like Goodwood has to lose a meeting! Now racing’s authorities are turning to ever more ingenious measures in an attempt to keep the wheels turning.

Last week an Ascot meeting was transferred to Kempton, and the fixtures there on tomorrow and Saturday will only go ahead following major surgery to the cards. The round course is unraceable, resulting in the loss of two races. In order to guarantee a six race card, a nine-runner maiden and an 11-runner handicap have been divided.

Chris Stickels, clerk of the course at Ascot said, “We’ve had 154mm in the last month compared to the average 40mm this time of year. We are due another burst of 20mm overnight which will make life difficult on the round course.”

Lingfield is able to use a round course, but not the turf one. Its original card for Saturday has been scrapped, and a substitute all weather fixture will take place. This will have the unusual spectacle of running both the Group 3 Derby Trial and Listed Oaks Trial on the dirt track.

At Warwick there’s a change of code, replacing the flat meeting with a card consisting of five hurdle races and a bumper. Clerk of the course there, Sulekha Varma explains the rationale for the change. “The flat course is waterlogged but the jumps track is in a pretty good position to go ahead, being good to soft, soft in places, ahead of the rain. The races were framed to try and give opportunities for lost races at Stratford and Newton Abbot abandoned this week and trainers have been very supportive.”

With more rain expected over the next week, there’s every possibility that we’ll lose more fixtures, and racing will have to allow further tinkering with race terms and meetings to keep things going.