Chepstow blow as meeting abandoned after two races due to unsafe surface
Racing at Chepstow on Monday was abandoned after two races following concerns over the state of the ground.
Trainers, officials and jockeys – including Franny Norton, Luke Morris and Harry Bentley – inspected the surface at the six-furlong start following the opening contest. The second race took place, but following another inspection conditions were deemed to be unsafe to continue.
David Probert, Liam Keniry and Harry Burns were among other riders interviewed by stewards, as were trainers Rod Millman, Eve Johnson Houghton and John Flint, before the decision to abandon was announced before the delayed mile fillies' novice auction stakes.
Millman said: "Unfortunately there are false patches of ground out there but after the long, hot summer and the recent deluge of rain, the course has not had time to settle down. It's dry underneath and wet on top, hence the big divots of turf that were being picked up.
"It's nobody's fault as in a few days' time there will not be a problem as the wet ground will have percolated into the dry ground and the turf will be stable again."
There will be 50 per cent refunds for racegoers and those in hospitality who attended what was billed as Bank Holiday Family Raceday. Everyone who paid on the day is required to write to the course and include their ticket in order to receive a cheque refund. Owners whose horses were denied a run and jockeys who missed rides will be partly compensated.
Course executive director Phil Bell said: "We'll be paying £300 compensation to owners of horses who didn't run and £125 to any jockey who missed out on riding in the abandoned races."
Johnson Houghton took the abandonment philosophically considering she was virtually assured of a winner in the abandoned third race with the heavily odds-on chance Canavese, who had only two rivals to beat.
She said: "Some of the jockeys have doubts about safety and if it's not safe, it's not safe."
Keniry, who was present for both inspections, said: "From the six-furlong pole to the five-furlong pole is not safe, but the round course was raceable in my opinion and they could have run the last two races on the card – over two miles, and a mile and a half – but the decision has been taken to call the rest of the meeting off."
Following the opener, stewards gave permission for the stalls to be moved three yards in front of their original position for the second race after remedial work on the surface.
Stipendiary steward Simon Cowley said: "Following two inspections along the same racing line at the six-furlong pole and other parts of the straight course along with the crown of the home turn, it was found that parts of the course were unraceable.
"The safety of horses and riders is paramount so we had no real choice but to call the remainder of the meeting off on safety grounds."
When asked why there was a need for two inspections, Cowley added: "The first look was on a specific part of the course following concerns about a false patch of ground.
"After the second race, more concerns were raised and we went about a further inspection that showed up other patches of false ground."
The course is set to race again next Monday.
In the first of the two races run, 7lb claimer Kate Leahy recorded the first winner of her career on the John O'Shea-trained 22-1 shot Major Valentine in the 6f handicap.
Leahy works for O'Shea alongside Brodie Hampson, who is still recovering from back and neck injuries sustained when knocked out in a fall at Newton Abbot in June.
Hampson said: "I'm actually feeling fine as the recovery has gone really well. I have another set of x-rays in a week or so and as long as they're fine I'm hoping to be back riding at the end of September."
The only other contest to go ahead was the apprentice seller won by the Paul Cole-trained joint-favourite Assassinate.
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