Newcastle hopeful for racing tomorrow

Newcastle will continue to inspect throughout today in the hope that the Northumberland Plate card will be able to go ahead on Saturday.

An unusually heavy storm during racing on Thursday left the course waterlogged and led to the abandonment of the final three races then and the cancellation of racing on Friday as well. The downpour saw almost three inches of rain in 15 minutes and left parts of the track under a foot of water, the paddock a paddling pool, and the grandstand a safety hazard because of the risk from anything electrical.

Shortly after racing was called off on Thursday afternoon, clerk of the course James Armstrong said, “It’s unprecedented in my time here. The parade ring is flooded, and the grandstand is suffering in places. There’s water pouring into the weighing room and the stewards’ room, and we’ve got to have serious concerns about the next 48 hours. We’ve had to abandon Friday’s racing and prospects of racing on Saturday are pretty gloomy. There are so many factors to take into consideration, it’s not just a question of whether the course is raceable, we need to make sure the buildings and entire infrasructure are safe.”

This morning he sounded mildly optimistic following a dry night and with a forecast of no more than a further 1mm of rain over the next 24 hours. Armstrong said that the round course had recovered well and they would be able to use it this afternoon, but the straight course would take longer to drain. There was a bigger challenge in getting the car parks and public areas operating and safe.

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If racing on Saturday does not go ahead, Newcastle will suffer financially, as the “Pitmen's Derby” is their biggest fixture of the year. Yet even Newcastle would have some pity for Leicester racecourse, which has now lost three successive meetings, and six all told in the last six months. General manager David Meykels put the loss at over £100,000. He said, “We had a full complement of hospitality for this and the last fixture, which is 1,000 people. Every meeting we lose now is hard.”

The next meeting at Leicester, on 7 July, is their highlight, and clerk of the course Jimmy Stevenson is keeping a close weather watch in the hope that ladies’ day isn’t also rained off. He said, “We’ve had 165mm in June, which is nearly seven inches, and in the whole of last year we had just 17 inches.”

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