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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Bath looks at October cards after infestation forces Saturday cancellation

Bath's Saturday fixture has been abandoned and Sunday's will be made up of sprints
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Officials at Bath are in discussions with the BHA over whether next month's fixtures can go ahead after the first day of the course's weekend double-header had to be abandoned owing to an infestation of chafer grubs on the home bend.

The infestation means that the track can only stage races over distances short of six furlongs, and so following the abandonment of the gentleman's day on Saturday, the family fun day card on Sunday will feature six races over 5f 10y and 5f 160y, when two of the three divisible races on the card will divide, regardless of whether the normal criteria for division are met.

The final of Bath's Summer Staying Series, which would have been the feature of Saturday's card, will now be held at Yarmouth next Thursday, on the final day of the track's Eastern festival. The race will be run over 1m6f, rather than 1m5f, and trainers with eligible horses should re-enter before 12 noon on Friday.

Clerk of the course Katie Stephens said: "Sunday remains family fun day, and those who had tickets for Saturday have various options which the racecourse office can explain to them.

"We are in conversation with the BHA's race planning department and no concrete decision has been made yet regarding whether our fixtures on October 2 and 18 will be moved elsewhere or whether we can retain the fixtures here."

The problem, she explained, can materialise very quickly and emerged only on Wednesday morning.

She said: "We've never lost a fixture through this issue, but it is a problem that we are vulnerable to, particularly since Merit Turf, the product that all racecourses used to use to prevent them became illegal last October, so we now can not treat them properly.

"The back straight and the bottom bend are our vulnerable areas because of their proximity to the woods, and we used to spray to prevent it happening.

"The larvae don't hatch out until the autumn, and it can happen overnight. We are very vigilant and that's how the problem was found."

Jon Pullin, racing director at Arena Racing Company, said: "Bath has always been susceptible to these types of grubs which damage the turf by eating the roots of the grass and destabilising the racing surface. 

"In the last year the grounds team at Bath have undertaken a number of actions, as recommended by agronomists, to try and prevent the return of chafer grubs without chemical intervention. Further assessment will take place following this weekend’s fixture."

He added: "We apologise for the inconvenience caused to horsemen, racegoers and customers by this deeply frustrating situation. In the longer term we will continue to find ways to treat and maintain the turf, as well as discuss with appropriate stakeholders, including the BHA and RCA, about working together achieve the reintroduction of Merit Turf."

What is a chafer grub?

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, chafer grubs are the larvae of chafer beetles and can be found in the soil under turf. They have stout white bodies curved in a C shape, light brown heads, with three pairs of legs at the head end. They are bigger than the adult beetles and, if straightened out, can be up to 18mm (almost ¾in) long.

Some species of chafer grub eat the roots of grasses and other plants. Evidence of their activities can be seen in a number of ways, including:

  • Damage to lawns is most obvious between autumn and spring when the grubs are reaching maturity
  • Patches of the lawn may become yellowish
  • Birds, badgers and foxes tear up turf in order to access the grubs to feed on them
  • Damaging infestations can be highly localised and sporadic

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It's a problem that we are vulnerable to, particularly since Merit Turf, the product that all racecourses used to use to prevent them became illegal

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