Cheltenham to hold Friday inspection with temperatures plummeting
Cheltenham will hold an inspection on Friday morning with the first day of its two-day December meeting in serious doubt.
With temperatures forecast to dip as low as -5C overnight on Thursday, officials will check conditions at 7.30am.
Frost covers were deployed at the track on Wednesday with temperatures are forecast to rise to 1-2C during racing, although that may not be enough to save the seven-race card headlined by the Glenfarclas Crystal Cup Cross Country Handicap Chase.
The fixture is due to continue on Saturday with a card featuring the Ais December Gold Cup and the Grade 2 Unibet International Hurdle.
Clerk of the course Jon Pullin explained what plans were put in place in order to give them the best possible chance of racing on Friday.
Pullin said: "It’s on the basis that we’ve now got the covers down and we’ll need to take a look at the forecast to see where we are on Friday morning and how we’re looking.
"We’re doing all we can to get the meeting on and hopefully putting the covers down now will help us do the job.
"They will stay down tonight because we’ve got a frost of -3C and tomorrow it will reach a high of 2C, so we need to make sure we do what we can."
On Wednesday, Hexham's meeting was cancelled after temperatures dropped to -2C following the track's first inspection at 8am.
A second inspection was called for 10am but the verdict was delivered shortly before, with certain areas of the track remaining frozen due to the sub-zero temperatures.
Hexham's clerk of the course James Armstrong had been optimistic that the divot mix, which had frozen as a result of rain on Tuesday and the freezing temperatures, would thaw out in time for the first scheduled race at midday, but it was not to be.
Armstrong said: "The temperature dropped another degree or so since 8am. The sun is out and it’s doing everything it can but temperatures are still around zero at the moment.
"Sadly the rain that came yesterday has really caused a problem. It’s dampened all the divot mix which we use to repair the course and fill the holes in after racing. That got so wet yesterday and then obviously with it being -1C or -2C for seven hours it’s got in and some of those areas are just balled up into really solid chunks.
"It’s really frustrating, the sun is out and it’s doing it’s best but those will not thaw out in the next hour or two. It’s a real shame because we thought we had a right shout this morning but it’s certainly not improved, if anything it’s worse than at 7.30 this morning.
“If you could guarantee another four hours of sunshine before racing then maybe you have a chance but at this stage, we’ve run out of time."
Hexham could be the first of a number of cancellations this week with bitterly cold conditions and frost forecast.
Warwick has called an 8am inspection prior to its card on Thursday, which features a £30,000 Listed mares' novice chase, while Clonmel will check at the same time for its same-day card.
Newcastle is also due to host a seven-race jumps card on Thursday and will inspect at 7.30am with temperatures expected to drop as low as -3C overnight and snow possible.
"It’s a shame, I think everywhere else is going to struggle if they get the forecasts that’s due," said Armstrong.
Bangor has called an 8am inspection on raceday for its meeting on Friday, the same day Cheltenham and Doncaster's two-day December meetings get under way.
A fixture at Wolverhampton has been added to the calendar on the same day, with another all-weather meeting brought in at Newcastle on Sunday.
Read this next . . .
These are Britain's most in-form trainers – what are their chances this weekend?
Moore 'on the fence' as latest juvenile bids to prove Triumph credentials
Download the new Racing Post app here to read exclusive content from the biggest names. There are brilliant betting masterclasses from Tom Segal, Paul Kealy and David Jennings, Q&As with pro punters, trainers and jockeys, plus much more. Download the new app now to access all of this unrivalled content.