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'Not easy' - dry spell challenges Epsom as watering is due to restart on Friday

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper at Epsom on Monday
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Watering in advance of next week's Cazoo Derby meeting at Epsom will recommence soon following an unprecedented dry period this spring.

Long-serving clerk of the course Andrew Cooper described that spell as far from easy on Wednesday afternoon – two days after a host of Classic contenders, including Cazoo Oaks hot favourite Emily Upjohn, galloped on the track's unique undulations.

Feedback from jockeys and trainers involved was positive, although Cooper and his team have been challenged by the elements.

"It's been dry all year, but April and May – the months you really start getting into business and need things to happen – have been very dry," he said.

Big-race Epsom entries

"Epsom saw only 15mm of rain in April, which is well below average and we're up to 20mm in May, but that's very low in comparison to other years, which would be at least double.

"Last Friday we had 7mm of rain, which was the wettest day we've had for two months. There's been no completely wet, washout day producing 15-20mm, which you'd usually get. It's been a prolonged dry period."

Epsom's famous circuit will get its final feed of an iron supplement on Thursday before watering restarts, having stopped on Sunday.

"People could see on Monday the track was in good nick, but it's not been an easy spring and wherever it's got to is the result of a lot of hard work," added Cooper.

Emily Upjohn (left) powers by her stablemate under Frankie Dettori

"When the horses galloped on Monday it rode on the slow side of good and it would be a shade quicker than that today. I'd probably call it good now, while we have an eye on resuming irrigation on Friday.

"We've had such dry weather we've been irrigating constantly for the best part of two months, not every day, but perhaps two or three times a week to keep a course like Epsom, which dries very quickly, in good condition."

There is no meaningful rain in the forecast prior to Derby day on Saturday week, although the certainty of that is not necessarily a bad thing.

"The last thing a clerk wants to hear is showers or thunderstorms three or four days before a race because it just ties your hand," Cooper said. 

"In many ways, it's easier to be dealing with a confident dry forecast than one that brings in uncertainty. If you know you're definitely getting rain, that's a different thing, but the mention of showers strikes fear into your heart because you just don't know; it's pot luck what happens then."

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In many ways, it's easier to be dealing with a confident dry forecast than one that brings in uncertainty
E.W. Terms