Tag Archive for: Exeter

Fontwell loses National Spirit card to waterlogging

Heavy rain around the UK continues to hit this week’s National Hunt fixtures, with Sunday’s top-class card at Fontwell and Friday’s meeting at Warwick falling to the weather.

The £80,000 Grade Two Star Sports National Spirit Hurdle was to be the feature race of Fontwell’s biggest day of their centenary year.

However, persistent heavy rain has left standing water on the West Sussex venue, with 18mm falling prior to a 4pm inspection on Thursday.

Clerk of the course Philip Hide said: “The track is waterlogged and I’m seeing water lying where I’ve never seen it before.

“We just haven’t got any fresh ground to offer up to get any meaningful racing line, with a forecast for plenty more rain – although the forecast doesn’t have a lot to do with it, because it would need to improve a fair amount from where we’re at and there’s just no prospect of it happening.

“Even though I was expecting today to be wet, we’ve probably had 5mm above where I dreaded being. We had about 5mm in 25 minutes around 12 o’clock today.

“It’s an important race for us, but unfortunately, however much you want something to happen, you can’t make it happen. I couldn’t just keep going blindly forward, I’d be misleading people.

“It’s not a hard decision to make and it’s not a decision I’ll regret at any stage – I’m happy to have made it in a timely fashion, to be honest.

“Obviously, there’s a chance they might put the race on somewhere for those horses that have been waiting for it – I think Brewin’upastorm has had it as a target since winning it last year.”

Following another downpour at Warwick, the adjacent Gog Brook burst its bank and left the course unraceable due to waterlogging.

Officials quickly decided there would not be sufficient improvement ahead of raceday and called an early halt to proceedings.

A precautionary inspection has also been scheduled for 8am ahead of Exeter’s jumps meeting on Friday.

After 10.5mm of rain fell on Thursday morning, the ground was described as heavy but raceable, although the last hurdle in the backstraight is being omitted.

The prospect of further showers has forced officials to take another look at conditions in the morning.

Thursday’s meeting at Huntingdon was called off due to a waterlogged track, but prospects for Saturday’s big jumps meetings are more encouraging.

The Premier Raceday fixture at Kempton, which features the £150,000 Coral Trophy Handicap Chase and a trio of Grade Two events, is set to be staged on going that is soft, heavy in places.

There has been plenty of rain in the Surrey area but the forecast is for sunshine and showers on Friday and Saturday.

Newcastle’s Eider Chase card is currently set to be run on ground described as heavy, soft in places.

Gosforth Park received less rain than expected over the last two days and a bright and breezy day is forecast for Friday.

Temperatures could drop to around zero for a short time at night, bringing the possibility of a light frost, but raceday has a predcited low risk of showers through the afternoon, with a light breeze and highs of 7C.

Carole’s Pass powers home to claim Listed victory

Carole’s Pass upheld family honour with a stylish display in the feature Trustatrader You Can Trust Our Traders Mares’ Chase at Exeter.

Trained by Amy Murphy, the six-year-old looked to have plenty to find on the ratings but a bold bit of placing was rewarded in style as she jumped herself into contention at the third last before being ridden out to win in style.

Her dam Carole’s Spirit was a dual Listed winner over hurdles for owner/breeder Paul Murphy, the trainer’s father.

Carole’s Spirit is a half-sister to Carole’s Legacy, second at Grade One level for Nicky Henderson, while she is also related to Mad Max, a Grade Two winner over fences for the Seven Barrows maestro.

Murphy now tends to concentrate more on the Flat but she showed in the early days of her career, with Kalashnikov winning a Betfair Hurdle and the Manifesto Novices’ Chase, that she is just as adept over jumps.

Galia Des Liteaux attempted to make all but was beaten early in the straight and while Malina Girl and Kestrel Valley appeared to be travelling strongly, when Jack Quinlan asked his mount to stride on, Carole’s Pass pulled seven and a half lengths clear.

“First and foremost, I have to say well done to Amy and her father Paul, because I wasn’t so keen on coming down here on the heavy ground but Amy said she’d be grand on it and I’m glad they didn’t listen to the jockey,” Quinlan told Racing TV.

Amy Murphy won the Johns Smith's Cup at York with Pride Of America last year
Amy Murphy won the Johns Smith’s Cup at York with Pride Of America last year (David Davies/PA)

“She’s been wanting the step up to three miles for a while but with breeding in mind, Paul was keen on as much black type as possible and she’s been running over two and a half because that’s what the mares’ Listed races have been over.

“She’s seen that out really well, though – she’s a really nimble, agile jumper and the type you enjoy going around there on.

“I’m delighted she’s got that Listed win under her belt. She was tired in the end but over two and a half, she’d been in top gear and done well sticking on for third in two Listed chases.”

Fun Fun Fun strikes for Mullins at Exeter

Willie Mullins’ first ever runner at Exeter was a winner as the mare Fun Fun Fun held off the late rally of favourite Favour And Fortune in the Trustatrader Fully Vetted Tradespeople Novices’ Hurdle.

The pair had come up against each other once before in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, with Alan King’s Favour And Fortune finishing one place in front of Fun Fun Fun when 14th, giving her 7lb.

This time, 6-4 chance Fun Fun Fun was even better off at the weights, carrying 10lb less, and it was just enough to enable her to claim the valuable Listed black type win.

It looked a great bit of placing by Mullins, despite the near 700-mile round trip, as she only faced two rivals – and Paul Nicholls’ Insurrection was beaten early in the straight.

Tom Cannon made his bid approaching the final flight on the 11-8 favourite but Daryl Jacob had saved just enough on Simon Munir and Isaac Souede’s mare, winning by half a length.

“She’s not the biggest but she’s got a big heart and tries very hard,” Jacob told Racing TV.

“Patrick (Mullins) actually bred her himself and she’s been a great mare since she joined us, she’s got a very willing attitude.

“She rides bigger than she looks but she’s a scopey thing, she can jump well and will probably jump a fence as well. I just like the way she dug deep from the back of the last.

“Patrick said the one thing she loves to do is jump. I actually would have liked to have been a bit lower at the last but she was big at it, but got away from it well.

“Alan King’s horses are in great form at the moment so he was always going to be a tough nut to crack.”

Absolute shock as Steel springs 200-1 Exeter surprise

Tom Lacey’s Absolute Steel caused a 200-1 upset at Exeter in the Trustatrader Apply Today British Studs EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle and dented the previously unbeaten record of Lowry’s Bar in the process.

Stan Sheppard set out to make all on the five-year-old, who was tailed off at a similar price on his hurdling debut at Chepstow.

With Lowry’s Bar looking for a fifth straight success as a long odds-on favourite, it looked a matter of when, rather than if he would reel in the long-time leader, but in testing conditions, he was making very heavy weather of it.

Absolute Steel showed the odd quirk or two at his hurdles but clearly possesses an engine, as when the favourite did get on terms after the last, he was just idling before he picked up again to win by a length and a half.

“I didn’t think he was as bad as his last run at Chepstow, his first over hurdles, but I was actually relatively happy with his first run in his bumper at Market Rasen,” Sheppard told Racing TV.

“I know he finished last (of five) but he wasn’t beaten overly far, we didn’t go fast and he just stayed going at the same speed.

“I’d say today, the favourite might have underperformed, but while I’m surprised, I’m not that surprised.

“He had a good look at the first three hurdles in the home straight but running to the last, I was thinking if the favourite comes by me within five strides of the line, I might not get back by him – but when he came at me, he picked up well again.”

Only three went to post in the Trustatrader Approved And Reviewed Trades People Novices’ Chase but punters who stuck to the old mantra of backing the outsider were rewarded when Crebilly came with a late run.

Crebilly came from last to first
Crebilly came from last to first (Steven Paston/PA)

The betting suggested it would be tight between Paul Nicholls’ Grade One-winning novice hurdler Tahmuras and Kim Bailey’s Trelawne, fitted with cheekpieces after his wayward second at Wetherby in the Grade Two Towton.

It was those two who were to the fore throughout, with Jonjo O’Neill jnr happy to take a lead, intent on getting his mount jumping better after an error-strewn display at Cheltenham last time out.

Trelawne was first off the bridle but kept on responding to David Bass, but Tahmuras initially looked to have done enough when jumping into a clear lead at the last, only to hang to his left.

That gave Crebilly the opportunity to come with a run and Jonjo O’Neill’s charge obliged at 5-2.

The winning rider said: “A clear round was what we were hoping for today. He was unfortunate at Cheltenham in November (fell) and he didn’t jump well back there last time out.

“It probably knocked his confidence a little bit, so a three-runner race on heavy ground, you couldn’t ask for any more.

“It was quite hard work and they maybe got a bit tired in front, so the race might have fallen apart after the last, but it was a nice race to win.”

Nicholls introduced a nice prospect in the Trustatrader Open Maiden National Hunt Flat Race with smooth scorer Teeshan.

The five-year-old won his sole point to point in Ireland by 41 lengths and made an impressive debut under Rules in the pink and blue colours of Johnny de la Hey.

Harry Cobden was always sitting comfortably on the 10-11 favourite and only had to keep him focussed to prevail by seven lengths.

Teeshan was cut to 6-1 from 14-1 for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham by Betfair and helped Cobden to draw level with Sean Bowen in the title race on 121 winners for the season.

My Drogo set for switch back to smaller obstacles

Grade One winner My Drogo is set to revert to hurdles, with a run over the smaller obstacles at Exeter pencilled in for next month.

Dan Skelton’s charge has already tasted plenty of success over timber and was unbeaten during his novice hurdling campaign, which ended when securing top honours at Aintree in 2021.

It was thought he would prove even better once tackling fences, but a long injury absence which began early in his novice chasing season meant life over the larger obstacles never really took off.

He returned from 687 days off the track in Aintree’s Old Roan Chase in the autumn but, having finished down the field, connections have bided their time before now deciding to switch back to hurdles, where he will try three miles for the first time in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle on February 11.

“He’s actually really well,” explained Skelton.

“He wasn’t quite right through November, nothing legs or tendon related, he just wasn’t really firing. We were just bearing with him and he’s now come back to something much more like what we have seen before.

“He will go to Exeter on February 11 for a three-mile handicap hurdle. We’re going to go back over hurdles with him and that’s when we will hopefully see him. We’re just going to get him back out and see how we go.”

Huntingdon upbeat on prospects for Friday fixture

Conditions are much improved at Huntingdon after severe flooding caused by the overflowing of the Alconbury Brook.

The track is due to host a meeting on Friday, its first since November as the Peterborough Chase fixture was lost last month, as was a further fixture last week.

The Cambridgeshire circuit was virtually underwater just days ago due to the deluge brought in by Storm Henk, but most of that water has now cleared and officials are optimistic about racing going ahead on Friday.

Clerk of the course Roderick Duncan said: “The river is down to pre-flood levels, all the drainage systems are now working and the floodwater has cleared.

“There is just a small area that often accumulates at the two-mile-four (furlong) chute, but not on the racing line.

“There’s a bit of standing water that remains, but we believe we’ve an opportunity of getting this meeting on with the forecast as it is.

“We’ve had a big team in, all the ground staff at Newmarket have given us a hand because there was a lot of debris about, but we’ve found nothing of concern.

“We were lucky that racing-critical buildings like the stable yard have all been flood-defended so that water couldn’t enter them.

“We wouldn’t want a lot of frost, but our forecast indicates that we shouldn’t get it and for that reason we’d be quite optimistic.”

Exeter abandoned Tuesday’s meeting due to frost, losing a seven-race card with temperatures dropping to minus 3C overnight.

Elixir De Nutz takes home Haldon Gold for Tizzard team

Elixir De Nutz ran out a gutsy winner of the Betway Haldon Gold Cup for Joe Tizzard at Exeter.

Fit from a recent run at Chepstow, he was one of two runners in the race for Tizzard with stable jockey Brendan Powell riding War Lord.

That meant Freddie Gingell, Tizzard’s nephew, came in for the ride and he was positive from the outset on the grey.

A 13-2 chance for the Grade Two, Elixir De Nutz was kept handy and surged ahead as others were faltering around the final turn for home.

A game and accurate string of jumps saw him extend his lead on the run in to the line and though Paul Nicholls’ Solo gave chase, it was the young jockey who prevailed by three and a quarter lengths.

“That is unreal. A big thank you to Terry Warner (the horse’s owner) and his family and to Joe and Colin (Tizzard) as well,” Gingell said.

“I went in and schooled him on Wednesday and Joe said ‘where would you rather go, Fontwell or Exeter’. I said I would love to go to Exeter to ride him as it is a big race and Joe has won it a few times. Riding in it was a big thing, but I never thought this would happen.

“The plan was to get a good start and go from there as there were five other very good horses in it. He was a bit slow going to the first, but he then jumped the first and took off with me. He was jumping outside the wings every time I gave him a squeeze and asked him.

“Harry (Cobden on Solo) came upsides me turning in and I thought ‘I will see what happens’, but I managed to get a breather into him as I thought Harry was coming with a very big challenge now. I thought ‘I will keep plugging onto the line’, but I thought we might have got racing a bit too early.

“For a moment or two I couldn’t believe it happened. I looked around and thought did I just win it sort of thing then Brendan (Powell) came and patted me on the back and it then really started to hit me.

“It is a big day and the last three years haven’t been easy. I can’t thank them enough for supporting me as it has been a really tough time. I passed my driving test last Tuesday and I have ridden a few winners, so it is all going well.”

The victory also left triumphant trainer Tizzard, who won the race three times as a jockey aboard Lake Kariba (1998), Flagship Uberalles (1999) and Cue Card (2012), fighting back the tears in an emotional response to the win as Gingell is the son of his late sister Kim.

Tizzard said: “We said it after we left Ayr last year about going for the Haldon Gold Cup. I said he always needs his first run and that worked a treat. The race suited him today. We were a bit worried about the ground, but the trip and the track were perfect for him. It is emotional.

“That is as good a ride that I’ve seen Fred give a horse to be honest. I wanted to get him revved up to be positive on him. He is only 17 years old, but he asked him at every fence. It is lovely for Terry and his wife who have made it down as they don’t get to the races all the time.

“That’s why me and dad are a little bit emotional (because we are thinking of Kim), but he (Freddie) didn’t need a lot of help.

“Fred is part of the family so it is lovely. I’m proud of Fred. He is a 17-year-old boy and he is a 7lb claimer. He has got a great job with Paul (Nicholls), but we are trying to give him a chance in these bigger races.

“He is razor sharp and he is a good jockey. He gave him an absolute belter I thought. I’m chuffed to bits with him. He is riding with lots of confidence and that is what you need. He gave that a proper ride and I don’t think he could have ridden it any better. “

Stay Away Fay makes perfect start to chasing career

Stay Away Fay made a winning debut over fences when taking the Betway ‘Future Stars’ Silver Bowl Novices’ Chase at Exeter.

The Paul Nicholls-trained bay won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last season, after which an eventual switch to chasing was immediately mentioned.

Exeter was his first outing over the larger obstacles and he started as the 5-6 favourite under Harry Cobden, with the race only attracting five runners and Dan Skelton’s Grey Dawning seeming to be his main rival.

There were no concerns over the market leader’s jumping as he looked totally at ease over each of his fences, leading for much of the way before looking to falter slightly on the turn for home.

When passed by other horses he quickly rallied, however, and was able to reel in those before him when easing up to a length-and-three-quarter success.

Nicholls said: “He stays, he jumps and he gallops. He is classy and that is what you want. I’m thrilled with that.

“I was a bit worried all week as I thought he looked big and round and that he would improve for a run. You almost expect too much from these horses and you have got to have them ready to do that, but also have them ready to improve. There is lots to come from him.

“He absolutely winged the last and I thought from there he would stay on strong. Harry said he could have done with them coming to him a bit earlier as he was idling a little bit in front. It is a great start to the season for him and he is a really classy horse.

“I was fairly confident he would gallop all the way to the line. I just thought he might need the run, and he might still have done.”

Sandown’s Betfair Esher Novices’ Chase on December 8 is the next port of call on his way to the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Christmas

Nicholls said: “There is a new novice chase at the Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown over three miles worth sixty odd thousand pounds, so he will go there then to Kempton Park and then we will give him a break. That is a good route here, Sandown then Kempton.”

As a result of the victory, Coral made the gelding a 10-1 chance from 12-1 for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and 10-1 from 14-1 for the National Hunt Chase, but the trainer only has the first-named contest in mind.

He added: “He will run in the three-miler at the Cheltenham Festival as he is too classy for the National Hunt Chase. He will run in that and you would like to think he will ultimately end up being a Cheltenham Gold Cup horse. That is what the owners dream of.

“It is a long way up that ladder put he has put his foot on the first step. I think there is a lot to come from him.”

Nicholls and Cobden enjoyed another promising triumph on the card as Insurrection made light work of the Betway Novices’ Hurdle at 11-4.

The six-year-old was a point-to-point winner who had just one bumper outing before a wind operation in readiness for his debut run over hurdles.

The market was focused on Joe Tizzard’s Diamond Ri, the evens favourite, but it was Insurrection who made all of the running and swept to an easy eight-and-a-half-length win.

Nicholls said: “We have won this race with some good horses and that was really good. We always thought a lot of him last season, but he was disappointing at Ffos Las (beaten bumper run), but that was because he was choking so we put that right and you wanted to see him do that well today.

“He has won a point-to-point over three miles, he obviously stays and he was fit, so the thing to do was bowl along in front. What I liked more than anything was that he sprinted from the back of the last.

“He has (taken me by surprise) a bit, but that is what novice hurdles are about as you get some that are disappointing and some that go well.

“He might be the sort of horse to go down the route Tahmuras did last season, by finding another race like this then go for what was the Tolworth Hurdle.”

Editeur Du Gite primed for Haldon Gold Cup return

Editeur Du Gite returns to the handicaps ranks at Exeter where he will attempt to show his class and carry top-weight to victory in the Betway Haldon Gold Cup.

Gary Moore’s nine-year-old has always been a useful operator in the two-mile chasing division but took his form to the next level last season, causing a surprise in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton before shocking again in the rearranged Clarence House Chase on Cheltenham Festival Trials Day.

He downed both Energumene and Edwardstone in the latter of those victories and was sent off a 13-2 chance for the Champion Chase at the Festival in March, finishing fourth before ending his campaign when well held in the Celebration Chase.

He has been freshened up during the summer months following that catalogue of stiff assignments and now returns with the task of conceding over a stone to his rivals.

“He’s a good horse and a very genuine horse who always does his best for you,” said Moore.

“I just hope the ground isn’t too soft down there, that is one thing that won’t help is carrying all that weight in that type of ground.

“The stiff track will suit him, he is just going to have to give a lot of weight away.

“He’s fit enough to go there and do himself justice anyway, we will just have to see if he’s as good as he was.”

Editeur Du Gite (right) clears a fence before going on to win the Albert Bartlett Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham
Editeur Du Gite (right) clears a fence before going on to win the Albert Bartlett Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Although beginning the season in handicap company, Moore envisages a return to graded action before too long as the Lower Beeding handler plots a route back to the big two-mile chasing contests in the spring.

He added: “That will be the plan as that is the way his handicap mark is heading him now. There’s not a lot else otherwise.

“He fooled me twice last year going right-handed and also going in soft ground, which he had never done before.

“He will need to improve a little bit more, but if he could do what he did last year, that will be good enough for me anyway.”

Paul Nicholls has won this four times in the last 10 years, including with dual victor Greaneteen 12 months ago.

Solo winning the Coral Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton
Solo winning the Coral Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton (Nigel French/PA)

This time it is Solo that is entrusted with upholding Ditcheat’s honour and his rider Harry Cobden is optimistic he can replicate the best of his novice chase form from last season.

He said: “He had one season where he didn’t win anything over fences, but he was quite highly campaigned and then last season he won a nice novice chase at Sandown and then he won the Pendil at Kempton Park.

“His jumping improved no end last season and he was brilliant when I rode him around Kempton. He was very good at Sandown as well, which is a good jumping test.

“I’m not saying he is going there with loads in hand, but Paul historically does well in this race and that is why I think he has got a nice chance.”

The pick of Solo’s form has come over two and a half miles, but Cobden does not envisage any problems dropping back in distance at the Devon venue.

“The trip should suit him as it is a lovely, galloping track so I can’t see that being an issue” he added.

“The ground is going to be fairly testing at Exeter on Friday, but it was fairly soft at Sandown when he won. He has got a good few things going for him.”

Mouse Morris successfully completed a raiding mission in the Charlie Hall Chase last Saturday and looks to repeat the dose with Indiana Jones, who like Gentlemansgame runs in the colours of owners Robcour.

It will be the handler’s first runner at the track and he said: “I had to look on the map to see where it was!

“We decided it was worth a go as it’s a big pot. He probably wants a bit further but it’s a stiff enough track, so he should be all right.

“He would have come on a good bit from the run in Cork, so we’ll see how we go.”

Joe Tizzard’s War Lord finished third in the race last year and returns following wind surgery hoping to go closer, while he is joined in the line-up by stablemate Elixir De Nutz, who was a Tolworth Hurdle winner in his younger years and was beaten only a nose in his previous appearance at this track.

Venetia Williams’ Brave Seasca completes the field of six heading to post.

Luccia impresses with Exeter stroll

Nicky Henderson’s Luccia opened up further Cheltenham Festival options with a straightforward victory in the Virgin Bet Daily Extra Places Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter.

Unbeaten in three starts prior to the run, the chestnut brought forward flawless bumper form and an existing Listed hurdle win gained at Newbury in November.

Not seen since after her Tolworth preparations were interrupted by an unsatisfactory scope, Luccia was nevertheless the 8-13 favourite under Nico de Boinville.

She travelled happily throughout and swept past her rivals with ease when asked, only giving connections a sole moment of doubt with a cat-leap at last.

Her 11-length Listed victory was still easily achieved, however, and she remains undefeated.

“She’s good, isn’t she? She’s been amazing because she had two bumpers last year and then we seriously nearly lost her,” Henderson told Racing TV.

“She had an extraordinary incident and she was as close to being put down as you’ll see. We didn’t know if she’d come back at all or if she’d be able to jump, it was a hind-end injury.

“We were a bit brave, we started her in a Listed race and she won that really well, then she had a dirty scope like one or two of them over the winter.

“This was the perfect race and the perfect timing just to get one more run into her. To be fair, it looked competitive and like it was going to be a good test but it didn’t seem to phase her at all.”

Of her less fluent attempt at the last flight, the trainer added: “She jumps well, we do a lot of extra schooling with her in the indoor school. Nico loves going round there on her, it just helps her technique a little bit.

Luccia on her hurdling debut
Luccia on her hurdling debut (John Walton/PA)

“Rather than just hurdling, she learns to jump properly and she does jump well, she was just untidy at the last but otherwise she was very quick and economical all the way round. I’ve got to say I was impressed.”

The Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle was always the intended target for Luccia, but the triumph has brought the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle into the equation come March.

“I’d say the mares’, personally,” said Henderson.

To the suggestion that she is good enough for the Supreme, he then added: “That’s what my jockey said – we’ve got four weeks to discuss it.”

Henderson and De Boinville enjoyed a treble on the card with The Carpenter (7-4) on the mark in the Virgin Bet British Stallion Studs EBF ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle, while Walking On Air (15-8 favourite) proved too good in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.

Venetia Williams’ Pink Legend returned to winning ways to land the Listed Virgin Bet Best Odds Daily Mares’ Chase under Charlie Deutsch.

Charlie Deutsch and Pink Legend at Ascot
Charlie Deutsch and Pink Legend at Ascot (Simon Marper/PA)

The nine-year-old was a 4-1 chance for the contest and made all of the running over the three-mile trip, her main pursuer being Jeremy Scott’s 11-10 favourite Kissesforkatie.

Four from home the two locked horns and it was Pink Legend that pulled away and stayed on well to claim a five-length victory ahead of Scott’s mare, with the Williams-trained stablemate Kapga De Lily a further half-length behind.

“I’m really delighted, obviously we wanted to get a bit of black type for Kapga De Lily,” said Williams.

“Pink Legend can sometimes be a bit of a law unto herself. Frank Mahon, who owns her, has always been assertive about the ground and said on good ground she likes it.

“He’s absolutely right and Charlie said as soon as she jumped off she was straight into the bridle, she jumped the first and she was off.

“It’s her first time back over three miles for a while, she enjoyed the tempo and everybody was very happy to have somebody to make the running. It was great.”

Luccia ready to light up Exeter in pre-Cheltenham prep

Luccia is aiming to book her Cheltenham Festival ticket in the Virgin Bet Daily Extra Places Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter on Sunday.

Nicky Henderson’s talented mare has only been seen once this season – but just like when she ran in her two bumpers, she displayed a good deal of talent.

Henderson took the unusual step of letting her make her hurdling debut in Listed company at Newbury which she won with ease and then he wanted to test her at the highest level in the Tolworth at Sandown.

Unfortunately she was ruled out of that engagement with a dirty scope, but she is ready to go again now in a Listed event against Paul Nicholls’ Lallygag and Charlie Longsdon’s Western Zephyr among others.

“She has done everything right so far and made a very impressive debut over hurdles at Newbury. She is in great form and has been working well,” said Henderson.

“It was very annoying that we had to miss the Tolworth Hurdle with her as that is where I wanted to go, but she had a little bit of a dirty scope and we had to miss a little bit of time with her.

“She is all good now and we need to get another run into her for more experience over hurdles before we go to Cheltenham.

“I could have found an easier race for her to run, but this is a decent prize to aim. Although she does act on soft, this ground will be fine for her.”

Exeter and Leicester called off as frost continues to bite

There will be no National Hunt racing in Britain on Tuesday after fixtures at both Exeter and Leicester were abandoned on Monday morning due to frost.

Officials at Leicester had planned to inspect at 3.30pm, but with the track frozen and no prospect of sufficient improvement, an early decision was made.

Clerk of the course Jimmy Stevenson said: “Unfortunately there has been little improvement.

“I was hoping last night for it not to be as cold – it wasn’t as cold as it has been considering it only went down to minus 3C last night when we have been getting minus 7C and minus 8C. But unfortunately that wasn’t enough to help us out and the frost is really set in the ground now.

“It’s been in the ground now for about nine days and unfortunately the temperatures that are forecast aren’t going to help us.”  

It is a similar story at Exeter, where an inspection had been announced for 4pm. However, that was brought forward to 9am and officials had to draw stumps.

It is not only jumps fixtures which are being affected by the cold snap, with Monday’s all-weather meeting at Kempton abandoned due to freezing fog.

The Sunbury circuit came through a 12.30pm precautionary inspection on Sunday, but a further check was announced for raceday morning and clerk of the course Barney Clifford ultimately had no option but to call off proceedings.

He said: “It’s 8am, we’ve got freezing fog and it’s minus 5C.

“I had to wait to get the latest update from the Met Office and it’s not forecast to clear today. It might do by 3pm, but it’s worse now than it was 7.30am.

“Hopefully we should be fine for racing on Wednesday, but this looks set in for the day. Put it this way, if I was going skiing here today you wouldn’t see much!”

Wednesday’s meeting at Warwick is subject to an inspection at noon on Tuesday, with the current going described as frozen, soft in places.

Kempton card falls due to freezing fog

This afternoon’s all-weather fixture at Kempton has been abandoned due to freezing fog.

The Sunbury circuit came through a 12.30pm precautionary inspection on Sunday, but a further check was announced for raceday morning and officials ultimately had no option but to call off proceedings.

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford said: “It’s 8am, we’ve got freezing fog and it’s minus 5C.

“I had to wait to get the latest update from the Met Office and it’s not forecast to clear today. It might do by 3pm, but it’s worse now than it was 7.30am.

“Hopefully we should be fine for racing on Wednesday, but this looks set in for the day. Put it this way, if I was going skiing here today you wouldn’t see much!”

Leicester’s meeting on Tuesday has also been called off. Officials had planned to inspect at 3.30pm, but with the track frozen and no prospect of sufficient improvement, an early decision was made.

Exeter’s National Hunt meeting on Tuesday must survive a 4pm inspection on Monday.

Lingfield’s Winter Million meeting frozen off

Despite a huge effort by officials and groundstaff at Lingfield the third day of the Winter Million fixture has been abandoned due to a frozen track.

Prospects had looked bleak earlier in the week and Friday’s scheduled card, the first of the three-day Winter Million meeting, was called off a long way in advance.

However, a thaw towards the end of the week, particularly on Saturday which enabled the course to become raceable, raised hopes the valuable fixture featuring the Fleur Du Lys Chase would be able to take place.

Forecasts ranged from between minus 1C and minus 4C with clerk of the course George Hill confessing it would need to be towards the lower end to stand any chance.

Unfortunately temperatures reached a bitter minus 5C on course and the efforts of up to 50 people in covering up the course with frost sheets went to waste with the meeting called of long before a scheduled 8am precautionary inspection.

Hill tweeted: “***RACING ABANDONED*** (Sun 22 Jan). Currently -5C, inspection brought forward as currently frozen in places with no signs of improvement with the forecast. Despite our best efforts, the weather has beaten us.”

It means there has been no racing on turf in the UK since Hereford on Monday but Navan did manage to race on Saturday in Ireland and racing is due to take place at Thurles on Sunday.

There was also bad news from Market Rasen who abandoned their meeting on Friday, set to feature the Listed Alan Swinbank Mares’ Open National Flat race, but swiftly rearranged for Tuesday.

However, much colder temperatures than forecast over the weekend has meant there has been no discernible improvement in the track and early on Sunday morning Tuesday’s fixture was also abandoned.

The going report read: “Following a second consecutive night of un-forecast -5C the track now has significant areas of frozen ground, including under the frost covers. Original forecast for improved conditions has not materialised and therefore no prospect of the ground thawing before racing.”

Exeter’s meeting on Tuesday must survive a 4pm inspection on Monday while Leicester will inspect at 3.30pm on Monday for their meeting on the same day following successive minus 5C nights over the weekend.

Kempton’s all-weather meeting on Monday must survive an 8am precautionary inspection on raceday due to the threat of freezing fog and low temperatures having passed a 12.30pm precautionary inspection on Sunday.