Darlan: the Christmas Hurdle winner could head to Doncaster on MondayPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Doncaster fixture gives Darlan back-up plan
DARLAN could have his Stan James Champion Hurdle warm-up at a hastily arranged meeting at Doncaster on Monday if his assignment at Sandown this weekend is claimed by the weather.
The Listed Contenders Hurdle is under threat along with the other three hurdle races on Saturday’s card, with the course ready to run an all-chase meeting because of the state of the ground.
Such a scenario would scupper Nicky Henderson’s plans to run Champion Hurdle second favourite Darlan but the BHA have put a similar race on the card at a planned replacement fixture at Doncaster.
Henderson said: “If Sandown is off we are in a desperate situation and it would be great if they could put one on at Doncaster. It’s great thinking by the BHA as we have Darlan raring to go. If they get it on, Darlan will be there – no danger.”
With the ground on Sandown’s hurdles course only “borderline” on Wednesday, the BHA has programmed a provisional
all-chase card in an attempt to safeguard the fixture with further rain of up to 25mm forecast. This would consist of the three chases originally scheduled plus three additional chases.
The going is currently soft, heavy in places on the chase course and heavy, soft in places, with some waterlogging, on the hurdles course. Officials are to inspect at 3pm on Thursday and decide whether to implement the alternative plan.
BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey said: “We are looking at options at the moment in case Sandown’s hurdles are cancelled. There is a Listed two-mile hurdle in the programme at Doncaster on
Andrew Cooper, head of racing and clerk of the course at Sandown, said: “Since the thaw at the weekend we’ve had over 30mm of rain. As a result, parts of the hurdle course are saturated and false in places. The chase course, as is invariably the case here, is better and while very soft would be raceable today.
Harry Fry: trainer of Rock On RubyPICTURE: Getty Images
“In order to give ourselves the best chance of staging a day’s racing here on Saturday we have asked the BHA to provisionally schedule an all-chase card with six races.
“We’re expecting Thursday to be mainly dry with a risk of showers, but most forecasts suggest Friday will be a very wet day for us, with up to 25mm of rain possible.”
Last year’s Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby is entered for the Contenders Hurdle but will instead use Wincanton’s Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle on February 16 to warm up for his defence.
Trainer Harry Fry said: “I think we’ll go to Wincanton in a fortnight’s time. He’s a far better horse on better ground and there’s no need to give him a hard race on bad ground.”
Rock On Ruby is a general 8-1 chance for the Champion Hurdle and Fry added: “I’m very happy with him. It’s frustrating with the weather being as it is, but the target is Cheltenham and it’s all systems go for March.”