Newcastle officials left ‘gutted’ with abandonment of Fighting Fifth card

Saturday’s high-profile fixture at Newcastle, which was due to stage the return of the brilliant Constitution Hill, has been abandoned due to snow on the track.

Nicky Henderson’s charge was set to be the star of the show this weekend, in his bid for back-to-back victories in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

Adding further spice to a quality card was the intended presence of his top-class stablemate Shishkin, who was poised to contest the Rehearsal Chase having refused to start at Ascot last weekend.

Officials deployed frost sheets across the entirety of the Newcastle track on Tuesday to guard against sub-zero temperatures, and on Friday morning clerk of the course Eloise Quayle reported the surface underneath to be raceable.

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However, with snow having already fallen, a precautionary inspection for 2.30pm on Friday was called to assess the situation and Quayle ultimately had no option but to call off proceedings.

She said: “We’re absolutely gutted. We’ve had five centimetres of snow in total and we tried to have a practice run of taking the frost sheets off with the snow on, which first of all proved incredibly difficult, then secondly as we were taking them up the ground was freezing over behind us.

“The ground wasn’t frozen as we were taking them off, but within half an hour it was white over. Given we were having our warmest temperatures at the time we were taking them off, coupled with the difficulties taking them off in the first place, I think we were pretty hopeless, sadly.

“We’ve tried everything we can, but unfortunately sometimes you just can’t beat the weather.”

While Friday’s Newbury meeting went ahead as scheduled, a precautionary inspection has been called for 7.30am ahead of Saturday’s Coral Gold Cup card.

Covers were put down earlier in the week and were due to be reapplied at the end of Friday’s meeting ahead of overnight temperatures which could dip as low as minus 4C overnight.

Doncaster also have a Saturday card, which will be subject to a 7.30am check.

Fairyhouse is due to stage a classy two-day fixture on Saturday and Sunday, although the opening day is subject to a 7.30am inspection.

Brendan Sheridan, Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board clerk of the course at Fairyhouse, said: “We had a slight grass frost at Fairyhouse this morning following a cold night, but the track is currently fit for racing.

“Having spoken with Met Eireann this morning, the forecast for tonight is for temperatures to get down to minus 3C and not much higher than 2C tomorrow.

“In light of that forecast, we will have an inspection at 7.30am on Saturday morning to assess the situation for day one of our Winter Festival.”

Bangor’s Saturday National Hunt meeting is subject to a precautionary inspection at 8am, while Sunday’s meetings at Leicester and Carlisle will have to pass 11.30am and 12pm checks respectively on Saturday, with Carlisle currently unraceable due to frozen patches of ground.

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