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Ascot battens down hatches with severe gusts and downpours forecast

Time to boogie: the area for the afterparty that follows racing is taking shape
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It's the calm before the storm on a briefly wet but otherwise tranquil Wednesday morning at Ascot – possibly in more ways than one.

The Met Office forecast accompanied by a yellow weather warning for a spell of strong southwesterly winds during Qipco British Champions Day on Saturday provides another potential inconvenience for clerk of the course Chris Stickels.

Gusts are forecast to reach nearly 50mph with a risk of exceeding that figure. On the Beaufort scale, this registers in the strong to severe gale category, and is less than 10mph away from storm proportions. Heavy downpours are also forecast for good measure.

Standing out on the hallowed turf, which is now officially described as good, good to soft in places following 3mm of rain at lunchtime, Stickels is composed about what may be on its way. 

Keep off the grass: preparations continue apace in the paddock and winner's enclosure

He says: “We could be in for a bit of a storm on Saturday, but we'll just have to take it as it comes. We'll make the infrastructure, including all the railings out on the track, as secure as possible.

"The only time I've experienced really severe winds on a raceday was at Lingfield about 20 years ago. We had to abandon racing after the first, but there were gusts in excess of 60mph that day. Thankfully we're not forecast gusts to that extent.

"We're expecting showers on each day, including Saturday, but the volume of rain remains difficult to predict."

Stickels describes a switch to the inner course as unlikely, barring significant rain on Wednesday night, while Nick Smith, director of racing and communications at Ascot, confirms "wind plans" are in place.

Smith, standing overlooking the impeccably maintained paddock and winner's enclosure, says: "We'll have to handle whatever the weather throws at us and we do have a wind plan.

"All the marquees and parasols can easily come down and the structure for the new Alpine Bar is built to cope with winds up to 60mph, which will take pressure off the grandstand in terms of racegoers. We're prepared as we can be."

Star billing: champion-elect Silvestre de Sousa is on show
The biggest crowd since Frankel’s final crowning at this meeting in 2012 is expected, with an emphasis on the next generation in the fanzone adjacent to the pre-parade ring.

James Oldring, operations director at British Champions Series, eyes taking the season stopper to the next level by gaining Group 1 status for the Long Distance Cup and building the day's burgeoning reputation.

He says: “The Grand National stops the nation – we haven’t achieved that just yet, but that’s what we’re aiming for. We’re hoping to make this an established event on the global sporting calendar.”

Come rain, storm or shine, it will be another Champions Day to savour on Saturday. Just bring a Mac.

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We could be in for a bit of a storm on Saturday but we'll make the infrastructure, including all the railings out on the track, as secure as possible

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E.W. Terms
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