Ludlow turnout down to soft ground not soft living say trainers
Trainers insist the lack of runners at Ludlow on Thursday was entirely ground related and had nothing to do with taking it easy after the rigours of Cheltenham, as general manager Bob Davies suggested.
Just 37 horses were declared yesterday for a meeting which had prize-money of £72,000.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls said: "There's no problem with Ludlow – it's is a great track with great prize-money – but it will have been proper soft ground there, whatever they say, and I haven't the horses for it.
"I made two entries, Marracudja in the novice chase and Ulck Du Lin in the £20,000 two-mile chase. I would have loved to have run them, Marracudja in particular, but they want good ground and there would be no point."
Looking at the bigger picture, Nicholls added: "I think a lot of people are fed up with running horses week in week out on bottomless ground like they had at Warwick on Wednesday.
"I'm dying for some decent ground and I've got loads to run when we get it, but I've just one runner at Newbury on Friday and I'll need it to dry out to be busy at Wincanton on Sunday. If it dried out there it could make the difference between me running six horses or one."
Ludlow is traditionally among Tom George's most favoured tracks, and he has had 15 winners there in the last five seasons, but he too had no runners at Thursday's meeting.
George echoed Nicholls' sentiments, saying: "There aren't the horses, it's as simple as that. If I had horses to run there I would have done – we all love the track and we love the prize-money – but I haven't. Not soft-ground horses anyway.
"You've got to have the right horses for the race and I looked through my 70 horses and I had nothing to run there. I had a couple I could have entered for the 0-150 chase over two miles, but I knew it was going to be soft ground and I didn't want to go down that route."
He added: "We've had a lot of soft ground, and horses can only take so much racing on it. Last year this meeting was run on good ground and catered for different horses. There's a limit to how many races a horse can take on soft ground, and most of us are running out of horses to run on it.
"It's absolute nonsense from Bob Davies to say that we are all on holiday after Cheltenham."
Philip Hobbs is another who does well at Ludlow – he has had 28 winners there in the last five seasons, the same as at Chepstow, from which he was also absent on Thursday, and a figure he betters only at Cheltenham.
He argued: "There will be some horses not running because of the ground, and that's part of the reason for sure, but there are just so many options this week in particular that we're all ducking and diving to give ourselves the best chance of getting winners.
"It's certainly nothing to do with Ludlow. They put up lots of prize- money and make big executive contributions, which is excellent. They put a lot of time and care into what they do there and it's appreciated."