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Darlan - Aintree 13.04.2012

Darlan: remains a doubt for Saturday's Fighting Fifth Hurdle

  PICTURE: Martin Lynch (  

Conditions improve to give Newcastle hope

THERE was encouragement that Saturday's Fighting Fifth Hurdle will go ahead after the rain eased off on Tuesday to allow an improvement in the ground conditions at Newcastle.

The going remains heavy but after a mainly dry day clerk of the course James Armstrong was optimistic the fixture could go ahead. The forecast is for more dry but cold weather than rain through the rest of the week.

"It's definitely improved from yesterday," said Armstrong. "We had just short of three inches in three days but today's been predominantly dry with sunny spells and the odd sharp shower.

"I don't think we've had more than a couple of millimetres today, which is going to help because it means we can pump water off. There is probably a furlong and a half where we have a bit of standing water - that is our main concern but it is receding.

"We're looking at moving the odd hurdle on to better ground, so it's possible we would omit one hurdle and one fence. It would be fence seven and the equivalent of hurdle five, although this may be reinstated if things improve.

"I would be pretty optimistic if the forecast is correct. We can now drive round the whole track, which we couldn't before because the service road wasn't passable."

The participation of Darlan in the Fighting Fifth remains in doubt. Speaking on Tuesday, his trainer Nicky Henderson said: "I spoke to AP [McCoy] last night and we'd be worried about running on heavy because he's such a good-actioned horse."

The going at Newbury, whose three-day Hennessy Gold Cup meeting is scheduled to start on Thursday, was left unchanged at soft, heavy in places on Tuesday.

Clerk of the course Richard Osgood has ordered the covering of the back straight with temperatures forecast to drop as low as 0C on Thursday and -1C on Friday night.

He said: "The wind is blowing and I think the showers have gone through us. We are starting to dry out. We have put covers down along the back straight and on the takeoffs and landings. That's a bit of a precaution, not so much for the second day, more the third day.

"The forecast is mainly dry, there could be an odd shower. The wind is still quite strong but it looks like it's getting colder."

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