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Waterlogging claims Cheltenham card

Cheltenham’s prestigious Trials Day meeting on Saturday has been abandoned due to waterlogging.

Officials had made people aware the meeting was in the balance due to midweek rainfall which exceeded expectations and an inspection had been called for 2pm on Friday.

An early update on Friday suggested it was touch-and-go following another wet night in the Cotswolds.

However, with standing water in places, some fences already set to be omitted and not enough space to redirect the runners around the waterlogged patches, the meeting has been called off.

Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: “We were always saying that we had to hope we wouldn’t get what was forecast and we’ve had what was forecast, unfortunately.

“We’re waterlogged in too many places to find a way round and there is no prospect of any improvement in the next 24 hours.”

The British Horseracing Authority later confirmed the possibility of races such as the Cotswold Chase and Cleeve Hurdle being rescheduled is under consideration, but a final decision will not be made until after the weekend.

The ruling body posted on Twitter: “We are currently considering options for restaging some of the races from the abandoned Cheltenham Festival Trials Day card.

“However, as the current picture is so changeable as regards to the continued very weather weather and which courses are going to be raceable in the coming days, it is not possible to make any definitive announcements at this stage.

“We will provide a further update after the weekend when the situation with the weather and the conditions of racecourses will be more clear.”

If there is any improvement in conditions over the next 48 hours, it will come too late to save Uttoxeter’s fixture on Sunday.

A total of 30 millimetres of rain has fallen in the past 48 hours at the venue, leaving the course waterlogged and officials with no option but to cancel following an 8am inspection on Friday.

Fairyhouse’s Saturday card is subject to a 7.30am inspection after it passed a Friday afternoon check, while Sunday’s meeting at Catterick must pass a precautionary inspection at 8am on raceday morning due to the threat of frost.

Hereford will not be racing on Monday, after the waterlogged course failed a Friday afternoon inspection.

Cheltenham’s Trials Day card hangs in balance

Hopes for Cheltenham’s Trials Day meeting on Saturday are hanging in the balance.

There is still standing water on the track, and fences will have to be bypassed if the card goes ahead.

A 2pm inspection will take place following a further 10 millimetres of rain overnight. To compound matters, a similar amount of rain is forecast this evening – some of which could also fall as snow.

Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said just before 10am: “I’m heading out to walk the course again now.

“It has stopped raining now, but we’ve had another three millimetres since I was on it first thing.”

If there is any improvement in conditions over the next 48 hours it will come too late to save Uttoxeter’s fixture on Sunday.

A total of 30 millimetres of rain has fallen in the past 48 hours, leaving the course waterlogged and officials with no option but to cancel following an 8am inspection on Friday.

Seeyouatmidnight ‘pencilled in’ for Midlands National

Connections of Seeyouatmidnight are considering the Midlands Grand National for the ever-popular 13-year-old following his victory at Sandown.

Seeyouatmidnight’s career has been littered with injury problems – but he showed he retains plenty of ability when taking the spoils in the final of the 2020 Veterans’ Chase Series at the Esher track earlier this month.

“He’s grand. We’ve half got the Midlands National pencilled in,” said Thomson.

“Sandown was great for everybody – great for racing and great for us. These are the stories we need because we’ve got this opportunity to captivate a new audience and get more people involved. That’s brilliant.”

Another old favourite, Yorkhill, was among a team of five horses Berwickshire handler Thomson took to work at Newcastle racecourse on Thursday.

The 11-year-old, who sprang a 66-1 shock in the Rehearsal Chase at the Gosforth Park track in November, galloped on the all-weather surface with Elf De Re and Duc De Grissay, who should have run in the North Yorkshire Grand National had Catterick not succumbed to the wintry weather.

The Ferry Master and Coolkill were also put through their paces.

“It was grand. There was no snow between here and Newcastle really,” said the trainer.

Yorkhill and The Ferry Master hold entries in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster on January 30.

“The Sky Bet is more likely for Yorkhill than The Ferry Master,” said Thomson.

‘Extraordinary’ Spirit could chart direct route to Midlands National

Seaston Spirit could head straight for the Midlands Grand National following his victory at Plumpton on Sunday.

Reverting to the larger obstacles after a 21-length success over hurdles at Ffos Las in November, Oliver Sherwood’s charge produced a career-best performance to land the Sussex National and claim a fifth win from his last six starts.

“I’m well happy with him. He’s a tough horse – he’s extraordinary,” said the Lambourn handler.

“Leighton Aspell (retired jockey) actually sent me a message of congratulations after the race and reminded me that he’d won on the horse just over a year ago off a mark of 98. He’s now won a Sussex National off 125.

“He was entered at the sales not long after Leighton won on him, so he was literally in the last-chance saloon. He obviously heard about it as he’s taken off since!

“He can still make the odd mistake, but we expect that and he’s going the right way, obviously.”

Sherwood hopes there is more to come from his charge, who may not run again before bidding for big-race honours at Uttoxeter on March 20.

He added: “The Midlands National would be the ideal race for him. I don’t know what he’ll go up for winning at Plumpton, but I think it should get him in off a low weight at Uttoxeter.

“I’m not entirely convinced he’s ready for Newbury or Sandown or somewhere like that.

“I’m going to have no choice but to go for those kind of races because of his mark. Whether he’ll go to Uttoxeter without a run, I don’t know, but my feeling is he probably will.”

Fusil Raffles makes victorious chasing bow at Uttoxeter

Fusil Raffles made a winning start to his new career over fences in the SSR Congratulates Phil Bell 55 Today Novices’ Chase at Uttoxeter.

A Grade One-winning juvenile hurdler, Fusil Raffles was last seen finishing well beaten in the Champion Hurdle, when he had his major market rival for this contest, Gumball, one place behind.

Fusil Raffles jumped well throughout as Gumball, despite some hairy leaps at the head of affairs, set a brisk tempo.

Quick Grabim, winner of the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle when trained by Willie Mullins, moved up menacingly down the back straight as Fusil Raffles began to look tapped for speed.

However, on the run between the second last and final fence, Fusil Raffles got a second wind and Daryl Jacob moved him upsides.

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Another safe jump sealed the deal and the 5-6 favourite pulled four lengths clear of Quick Grabim. Betfair gave the winner a 25-1 quote for the Arkle in March.

Henderson said: “He jumped very well, but took a big blow turning in. They went very hard, which they are always going to do when Gumball is around!

“Gumball has beaten Verdana Blue on the Flat and is rated higher than Fusil over hurdles, so they were always going to go fast and I thought he was good.

“It’s possible he might want two and a half miles – it’s not that he’s slow, but he stays two miles very well. I was delighted with him really.

“He is out early for one of mine. We brought him in early with the intention of running him in that Listed Hurdle at Kempton in October, but then I realised he’d be ready long before then.

“We started schooling over fences and realised he enjoyed it. I don’t know where next, but he does jump well and that’s a good start. He was just ready to run and we had to go to war today – it was a nice starting point.

“He can only do one thing and that is improve for it.”

Regarding the rest of his string, Henderson added: “A lot came in earlier, but only because they went out earlier.

“They got on some really good grass in the spring and they are bigger than normal, they were doing too well. They are not forward, but you can’t afford to be – that’s the biggest danger.

“We’re ready to press on, but you can’t because there’s no ground and no races for them yet – but we are still only in September. We’ll have a few for Chepstow in October, normally we aren’t ready for that.”

When it was suggested Altior could start his season in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on November 15, Henderson said: “You could look at that, but then you’ve got the Tingle Creek (Sandown, December 5) as well.”