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Final day of Royal Ascot poised to avoid repeat of Friday weather drama

Ascot clerk of the course Chris Stickels is anticipating better weather on Saturday after the fourth day of Royal Ascot was nearly scuppered by rain.

After three fine days at the track, the Ascot going was reported to be good to firm at the close of play on Thursday.

However, the heavens opened overnight and it continued to rain throughout Friday, with Stickels having never seen comparable quantities during his tenure at Ascot.

Frankie Dettori was part of the delegation inspecting the track
Frankie Dettori was part of the delegation inspecting the track (David Davies/PA)

With the ground going to soft, then soft, heavy in places and ultimately heavy, a lengthy lunchtime inspection took place, with a delegation of officials, trainers and jockeys undertaking a thorough assessment of the track.

Thanks to some plentiful rail adjustments to avoid the worst of the ground, the go-ahead was eventually just over an hour before the first race.

Stickels is not expecting such drama on the final day of the Royal meeting, though.

A mud-splattered Sean Levey after he finished second in the Coronation Stakes
A mud-splattered Sean Levey after he finished second in the Coronation Stakes (David Davies/PA)

He said at the close of play: “We have had 43.5 millimetres of rain since racing yesterday, which is certainly a 24-hour record for Royal Ascot in my time as clerk of the course.

“Obviously, we ended up with heavy ground, although times weren’t as bad as perhaps I was imagining. It has still been hard work and jockeys reported very soft and heavy ground.

“The forecast is for this rain eventually to die out later this evening, although it’s unclear when because it keeps on circling round us, and for a better day tomorrow.

“It’s not predicted to be warm and sunny, but dry with the chance of an occasional shower.”

Umbrellas were the order of the day at Ascot
Umbrellas were the order of the day at Ascot (David Davies/PA)

The dramatic switch in conditions did result in a raft of non-runners though, with six absentees reducing the Commonwealth Cup to 15 runners while the Coronation Stakes, the other Group One heat on the card, was missing both the well-fancied Primo Bacio and Oonadatta.

The heavy ground has also seen some high-profile runners ruled out on Saturday, with Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Tiger Moth and Mogul sidestepping the Hardwicke Stakes, along with Andrew Balding’s Bangkok.

Emaraaty Ana has also been taken out of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on account of the ground, with a handful of non runners in the Wokingham, too.

Final day of Royal Ascot poised to avoid repeat of Friday weather drama

Ascot clerk of the course Chris Stickels is anticipating better weather on Saturday after the fourth day of Royal Ascot was nearly scuppered by rain.

After three fine days at the track, the Ascot going was reported to be good to firm at the close of play on Thursday.

However, the heavens opened overnight and it continued to rain throughout Friday, with Stickels having never seen comparable quantities during his tenure at Ascot.

Frankie Dettori was part of the delegation inspecting the track
Frankie Dettori was part of the delegation inspecting the track (David Davies/PA)

With the ground going to soft, then soft, heavy in places and ultimately heavy, a lengthy lunchtime inspection took place, with a delegation of officials, trainers and jockeys undertaking a thorough assessment of the track.

Thanks to some plentiful rail adjustments to avoid the worst of the ground, the go-ahead was eventually just over an hour before the first race.

Stickels is not expecting such drama on the final day of the Royal meeting, though.

A mud-splattered Sean Levey after he finished second in the Coronation Stakes
A mud-splattered Sean Levey after he finished second in the Coronation Stakes (David Davies/PA)

He said at the close of play: “We have had 43.5 millimetres of rain since racing yesterday, which is certainly a 24-hour record for Royal Ascot in my time as clerk of the course.

“Obviously, we ended up with heavy ground, although times weren’t as bad as perhaps I was imagining. It has still been hard work and jockeys reported very soft and heavy ground.

“The forecast is for this rain eventually to die out later this evening, although it’s unclear when because it keeps on circling round us, and for a better day tomorrow.

“It’s not predicted to be warm and sunny, but dry with the chance of an occasional shower.”

Umbrellas were the order of the day at Ascot
Umbrellas were the order of the day at Ascot (David Davies/PA)

The dramatic switch in conditions did result in a raft of non-runners though, with six absentees reducing the Commonwealth Cup to 15 runners while the Coronation Stakes, the other Group One heat on the card, was missing both the well-fancied Primo Bacio and Oonadatta.

The heavy ground has also seen some high-profile runners ruled out on Saturday, with Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Tiger Moth and Mogul sidestepping the Hardwicke Stakes, along with Andrew Balding’s Bangkok.

Emaraaty Ana has also been taken out of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on account of the ground, with a handful of non runners in the Wokingham, too.

Ascot to inspect for day four of Royal meeting

This afternoon’s Royal Ascot fixture must pass a lunchtime inspection following torrential overnight rain.

Rain began falling before Thursday’s card reached a conclusion and has barely stopped since.

A total of 26 millimetres of rain had fallen the Berkshire venue up to 11am and it was still coming down – with more forecast throughout the course of the day.

The going is now officially soft, heavy in places, with clerk of the course
Chris Stickels calling a 12.45pm inspection to assess the chances of racing
going ahead.

A view of standing water on the ground before day four of Royal Ascot
A view of standing water on the ground before day four of Royal Ascot (David Davies/PA

A going update on the British Horseracing Authority administration site read: “Due to a few false patches of ground on which the ability to race may be marginal an inspection has been called for 12.45.

“We are also looking at options to realign the rail to avoid these areas.”

If racing does get the green light, there are already a number of significant non runners on day four of the meeting.

Clive Cox’s Commonwealth Cup pair Supremacy and Diligent Harry will not take part, while Primo Bacio has been taken out of the Coronation Stakes.

The track outlined three contingency plans, before the inspection, with the first option being that the fixture is given the go-ahead and everything proceeds as initially planned.

The second plan is for racing to go ahead on Friday on the straight course only, with the Group One Coronation Stakes switched from the round course to make a five-race card, and the Duke of Edinburgh and King Edward VII Stakes run on Saturday instead.

The third possibility is that racing will be called off completely on Friday, with the three Group races – the Coronation, King Edward VII and Commonwealth Cup – all transplanted to Saturday to make a 10-race card, kicking off at 1.20pm and continuing until 6.45pm.

Ascot soft as deluge arrives

Clive Cox’s Commonwealth Cup pair Supremacy and Diligent Harry were among the inevitable non-runners as almost 20mm of overnight rain turned the ground soft for day four at Royal Ascot.

Clerk of the course Chris Stickels announced the significant change in conditions in an updated going report shortly after 7.30am – with more rain expected throughout the day.

The ground was good to firm throughout Thursday, after a prolonged warm and dry spell up to and including the first two days of the meeting.

Heavy rain was forecast, however – and after its arrival, there were already a clutch of non-runners early on Friday morning.

They included Diligent Harry and Supremacy, leaving their trainer with Isabella Giles still engaged in the Group One sprint for three-year-olds.

Speaking just after 8.30am, Stickels reported a minor improvement in the weather but confirmed more rain is anticipated.

“It’s just eased off a bit at the moment,” he said.

As for any possible further change in the going, he added: “We’ll have to wait and see. There is further rain forecast – soft covers a wide range of going really.

“I walked it at 6am and then decided to change it to soft at 7.30.

“We’ll be walking again at 11am and review it all then.”

As the rain regathered, Primo Bacio became the next notable non-runner – in the Coronation Stakes.

Epsom begin watering for Derby Festival

Epsom clerk of the course Andrew Cooper has begun watering the track for this week’s Cazoo Derby Festival.

On Sunday the going was described as good across the course, but a warm afternoon and the decreasing likelihood of rain later in the week has caused Cooper to step in and begin irrigation.

The ground is described as good, good to firm in places for the two-day meeting which starts on Friday and hosts the Derby itself on Saturday – and only those areas which are slightly quicker will be targeted during the initial watering.

“At nine o’clock yesterday morning I’d have called the ground good,” said Cooper.

“Yesterday was a dry, sunny day here. Temperatures got up to about 20 degrees – and it was a lovely, sunny afternoon.

“We dried out a bit more – and as of nine o’clock this morning, if we were racing here today I’d call it good, good to firm in places.

“You’ve only got to look at the going reports up and down the country and see that a lot of the Flat courses are heading into that territory, so that’s not unexpected at all. It’s exactly where I’d have expected us to be, given the weather in the last week.”

Cooper’s team will apply an initial five millimetres of water to the drier parts of the track, with the forecast in the latter stages of the week the deciding factor as to whether further watering will be needed.

“We’re focusing today on those bits of the track that we would be calling good to firm, or the fast side of good, if we were racing here today,” he said.

“As far as the Derby course is concerned, it’s really only the first half a mile, from the Derby start to the mile start that walks a bit quicker than the last mile.

“We’ll be leaving the last mile, certainly for today, and we’ve decided we’ll put 5mm over that first half a mile.

“In our judgement, the time has come for us to step in and just start irrigation.

“In terms of the forecast, increasingly – this morning even – the shower risk at the end of the week is diminishing.

“There’s still a degree of uncertainty. But here and now, the risk of showers is diminishing – which is one of the considerations to us cracking on and doing some watering.”