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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Ayr boss brushes off 'ill-informed' critics and vows to race on the Flat soon

Ayr managing director David Brown is full of hope that Flat racing will resume next month
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Ayr managing director David Brown is "very hopeful" racing will resume on the Flat next month and has hit back at criticism after the loss of the track's first fixtures of 2018.

A drainage problem caused the whole Gold Cup meeting to be called off last September and the track will not be ready to host a two-day Flat meeting scheduled for April 30/May 1.

Brown has blamed the delay on a combination of bad weather, the need to switch contractors and the fact that the course has elected to revamp the whole drainage system in the area that caused problems last autumn, rather than attempting to isolate and deal with the specific issue.

Trainer Noel Wilson inspects the track on the abandoned opening day of the 2017 Ayr Gold Cup meeting

"In a racetrack that's 100 years old, rather than trying to find the one particular issue that was there, we decided to step back and put in brand new drains in that whole furlong," he said.

"We wanted to do the job properly rather than be sitting here next September and say we thought we'd found the problem but it turns out there was another one. We took a decision for the long term.

"We started the work in October but we then had a challenging situation because the company that started it, Souters Turf Sports, who had done a huge amount of work for racecourses and football clubs, went into administration before they completed the job. So we had to find another supplier of that service and they started around November-time. But it's been hugely challenging with the amount of rainfall we've had here as that means they can't get onto the track."

Ayr has had significantly higher than average rainfall throughout the winter and early spring – 56.1mm more than normal in January alone – and lower than average sunshine, which has delayed grass growth.

Covers encourage grass growth on part of the track where drainage work has been carried out

"This has been pretty unprecedented weather," said Brown. "It's been absolutely horrendous here. And we're a business that's based on the weather.

"There have been silly rumours about when we'll race again but my understanding is that they are probably three or four weeks away from finishing so I would be very hopeful it will be raceable for our fixture on May 22."

Ayr came in for widespread criticism after the loss of the Gold Cup meeting and again when this spring's first Flat fixture became a one-day jumps card – interrupting jump racing's break, a switch quickly reversed in conjunction with the BHA – with the other day switched to Newcastle.

Brown said: "I don't mind criticism if it's fair, measured and considered. But some of the things I've seen since last September were probably ill-informed and I think some people should perhaps do a bit more background work before they pontificate with opinions."

Brown also revealed an extra incentive for Ayr to get its Flat track raceable as soon as possible.  

He said: "We've bought a couple of horses with local trainers to race here and raise money in partnership with Ayrshire Cancer Support, so the last thing I want is for Flat racing not to take place here!"

You may also be interested in:

BHA forced into embarrassing U-turn over jumps fixture during jockeys' holiday 

Ayr under fire as BHA warns track over communications

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I think some people should perhaps do a bit more background work before they pontificate with opinions

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