Ground and runners drying up on Easter Monday at Plumpton
Dry weather is not always ideal for holiday racing – ask those in charge at Plumpton, which has drawn just 35 runners for its Easter Monday card.
Six of the seven races were reoffered and only four horses go to post for the feature £20,000 chase, with the 3m1f chase a match.
The ground was officially good to firm for racing on Sunday, which lured 47 declarations, and clerk of the course Mark Cornford said: "The weather has been extremely warm and dry in the south-east. The ground has dried up, I can't hide that from anybody. We've thrown a lot of water on it but I've been up front with everybody and told them the truth, I haven't tried to conceal anything.
"We were trying to hold on to some good ground but we were fighting wind, sunshine and no rain – we've had only 3mm since our last meeting."
A total of 387,000 gallons of water was put on the track in the nine days before racing on Sunday and more is likely to be added, with only a 'slim' chance of rain.
"It doesn't look as though nature's going to help us at all so we'll be throwing on another 4mm-6mm tonight and tomorrow morning, hoping to hold the ground we've already got," Cornford continued.
"I'd love to see more runners but a lot of the customers who come to these meetings are picnickers, they're not hardcore racegoing people. They want to see a decent-size field with the opportunity to get something at a working man's price, but hopefully they'll still come for their parties, picnics and barbecues and enjoy the day."
Bank Holiday trip to France for Hobson
As the bloodstock agent who secured the likes of Hurricane Fly and Saint Are, Richard Hobson is no stranger to plundering France's racing wealth and he has carried that into a burgeoning training career, making several raids across the Channel since branching out into running as well as scouting racehorses.
On Monday he sends last month's Newbury winner Chic Name to Auteuil for the €175,000 2m4f Prix Leon Rambaud.
"We've got a few to run in France and the prize-money you can't turn down," said Hobson. "There are seven runners tomorrow and there's five grand for finishing seventh – and hopefully we won't be seventh!"
Chic Name is entered in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown and while long-term the plan is to go distance chasing he is unlikely to run in that race, with Hobson instead nominating as a summer target the French Champion Hurdle in June. On this trip he faces last year's Champion Hurdle second, third and fifth, in the form of Alex De Larredya, Blue Dragon and Bosseur.
"He's in good order and has only 64 kilos [10st1lb], so they've got to give him a bit of weight," said Hobson.
"The trip is too short for him so we're hoping for a bit of rain to bring out his stamina - he won over three miles last time.
"But there's good prize-money on offer and hopefully we can pick up a cheque. He loves the ground at Auteuil and Alain [Cawley] is back on board and knows it well around there. We're looking forward to it."
Hobson celebrated his first graded winner earlier this month when Dame Rose won the Grade 2 mares' bumper at Aintree.
"Things are going well," he added. "We've had a licence only two years and you can't be any happier. With the small number of horses we've run, the success we've had is great."
Guineas outsider goes on trial at Wolverhampton
Al Shaqab could have a second Qipco 2,000 Guineas runner to join the well-supported second favourite Al Wukair if Richard Hannon's Medahim impresses on Monday.
A winner on debut at Kempton in December, the 66-1 Guineas shot sticks to all-weather surfaces with a visit to Wolverhampton (3.10).
"I think it's one step at a time," said Harry Harbert, Al Shaqab's racing manager. "The horse is well, Richard's are going well, but we're not looking at mega targets yet.
"He was impressive at Kempton and I think he looks to be a very nice horse, but it's early days weighing up the form.
"Richard's horses seem to be in great shape and very forward, so we decided to take this route rather than maybe something more ambitious. He seems to be a very nice horse so hopefully he'll go on progressing."
Since beating Group 1 winner National Defense at Maisons-Laffitte a week ago, the Andre Fabre-trained Al Wukair has been all the rage for the Guineas, being backed in from 8-1 after the race to a general 4-1 now.
"Al Wukair is a very exciting horse, he has proper gears, serious gears," Herbert added. "Andre has always liked him and spoken highly of him, and he hasn't put a foot wrong on the racecourse yet. The plan is very much to go to Newmarket."