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Stickels waiting on weather updates before finalising Ascot watering plans

The threat of possible thunderstorms in the middle of the week means Ascot clerk of the course Chris Stickels will wait before deciding whether to continue watering once the Royal meeting starts on Tuesday.

The going was described as good, good to firm in places on Sunday but with dry and warm conditions set to continue for a couple more days, the ground could be good to firm during the first day’s action.

Watering has gone on for a week on both the straight and round courses.

“Going wise we are good, good to firm in places and in the middle of a watering cycle,” Stickels told Sky Sports Racing.

“We watered the straight course yesterday and are not watering today. We watered the round course last night and will water that again tonight and we will water the straight course again tomorrow.

“It’s a very warm day today – 29 degrees as the afternoon goes on and we are expecting a warm, dry day tomorrow too.

“We’ve been watering for the last week, about 10 millimetres on the straight course every other day and between 3mm and 4mm on the round course. The straight course drains a bit quicker.

“That keeps us close to where we are, putting that amount of water on – a mixture of good and good to firm. The track is in lovely condition.

“We’ll end up with good to firm ground by the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday.

“We’ll probably start the day on a mixture of good and good to firm, but the first race is not until 2.30pm. By the time we get to the fourth race in the afternoon, gone four o’clock the ground will be good to firm by then.”

Once racing has finished on Tuesday, Stickels has to decide what his next move will be based on the latest predictions.

“The question then comes what do we do in the evening after racing, depending on the forecast,” he went on.

“We’ll have to play that one by ear when the forecast for the remainder of the week becomes clearer. We may have to put a bit of water on on Tuesday night to hold it at good to firm.

“There does look like a breakdown in the middle of the week. Certainly Wednesday night into Thursday, when some thunderstorms might develop from northern France. The nature of thunderstorms is they are hit and miss, but there is confidence in that forecast after racing Wednesday and on Thursday.

“If we weren’t watering now, we’d have firm ground by Tuesday afternoon and we wouldn’t have any runners.

“At the moment we’ve got 28, 29 degrees today and tomorrow. There’s no question of needing to water now.

“It’s what happens after Wednesday really and that picture is unclear at the moment.

“This far out on Sunday, talking about Wednesday night, it’s very difficult to imagine what is going to happen at this stage.”

Ascot braced for testing ground – but no threat to racing

Clerk of the course Chris Stickels is confident the winter weather will spare this weekend’s Betfair Ascot Chase meeting.

Heavy rain caused abandonments for waterlogging at several courses this month, before the cold spell then wiped out the jumps fixture list last week.

Stickels does not anticipate Saturday’s card at Ascot will come under threat, however – with much of the snow thawed already on ground currently varying between soft and heavy.

“We’re still thawing – we were frozen solid yesterday lunchtime, and this morning we’re 90 per cent thawed,” he said.

“There’s a little bit of frozen ground right in front of the grandstand, where there’s normally shadow.

“We are a mixture of soft and heavy in places – otherwise we anticipate that all that frost will have come out of the ground by later this afternoon.”

A combination of melting snow and further rain will inevitably nonetheless make for very testing ground.

“It does leave it fairly wet at the moment,” added Stickels.

“We had (that) bit of snow at the beginning of last week, and there is further rain forecast this week.

“With the rain we have forecast, I wouldn’t imagine it would be a threat to us at all, but it will leave it testing.

“We’ve got about 20mm in rain (forecast) through until Friday. Saturday at this stage looks dry – albeit it is a while away, and things can change.

“That will leave us with similar ground to now – a mixture of soft and heavy. Which way (round) it’ll be will depend on the nature of the rainfall.”

Soft ground in store for Ascot – but hurdles track not expected to be needed

Ascot’s clerk of the course Chris Stickels expects soft ground for Qipco British Champions Day on Saturday.

The last meeting at the track just over a week ago had to be called off due to waterlogging – but Stickels does not anticipate the meeting taking place on the inner (hurdles) track, which was needed for the races on the round course last year.

While rain is forecast for Monday evening into Tuesday, not much else of significance is expected before the meeting gets under way.

“Currently we’re soft, it’s been drying out since Saturday and we’ve only had a little bit of rain in the last week,” said Stickels.

“But what we have had is 112 millimetres in October already. We had a huge amount of rain the weekend before last which forced us to abandon the Saturday of the two-day meeting.

“We’re anticipating rain and showers through Monday into Tuesday with six to eight millimetres forecast.

“After that is is meant to remain generally dry, there may be the odd shower about but nothing serious.

“We might go back to heavy in places after this rain today and tonight and after that I anticipate soft ground for Champions Day.

“We have the option of using the inside track should the outer track be unraceable, but I don’t think it’s going to get to that if this forecast is accurate.”