Charlie Longsdon has regularly sent horses from his Chipping Norton yard to race at Ffos Las, and will continue to do so. But when there is winter ground there, as there was on Sunday, he will think at least three times before sending the horsebox out.
Longsdon was not at all happy with conditions on Sunday, when the going report was “heavy.” He said on his website, “The big lesson I learnt was not to go back to Ffos Las in a hurry. The ground there was terrible. It made heavy ground at other tracks look like beautiful going. Even Orange Nassau who loved the heavy ground of Lingfield last time (and I always think that is as bad as it gets) hated it and could not travel a yard in it.
As a result I took out Sergeant Mattie from the bumper - he is a lovely youngster and there is no point 'bottoming' the horse for the sake of a little run. For a track that was meant to produce good going all year round, there is obviously a real problem. It is sad, because although miles away, it is a nice track when you get there and everyone could not be more welcoming, but I will struggle to send more runners there when I know even the softest ground horses will struggle.”
Supporting evidence for his view came in the form of race times, as winners averaged four seconds a furlong slower than Racing Post standard times. Putting that in context, the shortest race on the card, the two mile handicap hurdle, took 4min 38.1 seconds to complete, over a minute slower than standard time.
In fairness, clerk of the course Tim Long accepted conditions were tough, saying they were “probably about as testing as you can get”, although he added that a strong wind had been a contributing factor to the slow times.
The hurdles races on Sunday took place on the Flat track, and Long was quick to seek to allay fears that this could create long-term damage to the surface. He said, “Sunday was the second time we’ve used the Flat track, but more than likely it will be the last time we use it this jumps season. We don’t have flat racing here until July, and so as soon as we get some improvement in the weather we can get to work on it.”
It does seem a little odd that on such a wide circuit as Ffos Las there need be any doubling up of using parts of the track, especially given that, on Sunday, the biggest field for the hurdles races was 12. Surely there’s enough room to have two separate hurdles circuits if that would alleviate some of the going problems?