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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Battling the beast: Newmarket doing its best to keep the show on the road

Henry Spiller: wrapped up well against the elements on the Severals
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The ‘Beast from the East’ did its best to put the brakes on day-to-day operations in Newmarket on Wednesday morning but it was business as usual for most despite the mercury hitting -5C overnight and two inches of snow on the ground by 11am.

In such circumstances – the worst locals have experienced since 2011 – the bigger trainers use the luxury of staying at home to exercise their strings in their covered or indoor rides to beat the elements, especially when the snow came down again at second, third and, for many, fourth lots.

Martyn Meade's team make their way down Warren Hill
Unfortunately, many of the smaller operators have no such facilities and have no choice but to take a chance on accessing the famous Heath where the Warren Hill artificial canters were open as usual – provided you can access them.

Among those out taking the plunge on the training grounds was Hamilton Road-based George Scott – but not for very long.

“We are only having short lots,” he said. “We’re not in the position of getting horses ready for Cheltenham or anything, so it’s no use rushing them when it’s like this – they’ll only be out for 15-20 minutes.

“We do our best to keep them warm as they dislike this weather as much as we do. The Jockey Club does a great job putting the sand and grit down and making the walkways safe, so we’ve been able to get out.”

George Scott: short lots during cold snap
In the middle of town, Henry Spiller also has no option but to break out with his first lot in the general direction of Warren Hill, where it was noticeably less busy than usual. Before pulling out, he said: “We’ve no choice – we have to get out of the yard especially as we have horses running this week or sitting on the edge of a run.

“We gritted the yard last night and put plastic bags over all the outside taps to stop them freezing, which has worked. Our outdoor ride is completely and utterly frozen so we’ll just hand walk all of the horses with all of their tack on down to the horsewalk around the corner which has been gritted and then go for a trot around the Severals [collecting ring] and then on to Warren Hill.

“I’ve already looked at the canters and the Jockey Club is continually working them with tractors so it should be fine.” 

During bad weather, it is an advantage to have a yard close to the facilities. Tom Clover’s stable lies 100 yards from the foot of the Warren Hill canter and with snow on the roof was certainly living up to its name – the White Yard.

He said: “We’re lucky as we only have to come out of our front gate and on to the Severals and then on to Warren Hill. It’s so cold today that one of my lads is riding out in a ski jacket and my partner Jackie has five layers on her top half plus three pairs of trousers!”

Jackie Jarvis: Michelin woman
On a personal note -16C in 2011 was the coldest I’ve experienced in 30 years in Newmarket, but the trouble with weather stories is that there is always someone with a hardier tale to tell.

Thus, Simon Crisford said: “This is nothing. I remember when I was pupil assistant to Sir Mark Prescott in the 1980s. It got down to -26C and he made us tie straw around the outside taps to stop them freezing. And we weren’t allowed hats or ear mufflers while we were doing it!”


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Our outdoor ride is completely and utterly frozen so we'll just hand walk all of the horses with all of their tack on down to to the horsewalk
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