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Week of woe: racing feels full force as Beast from the East hits fixture list

Racing at Newcastle was cancelled after two inspections
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Racing is firmly in the grip of a ferocious icy blast, dubbed the Beast from the East, which threatens to wipe out the entire turf track programme in Britain and Ireland this week in addition to several all-weather meetings.

Friday’s Newbury fixture became the latest to be cancelled on Wednesday afternoon owing to frost, and prospects of a turf resumption at the Berkshire track on Saturday – the last meetings on turf to be staged in Britain were at Plumpton and Ayr on Monday – must be in doubt with sub-zero temperatures forecast to continue. An inspection for Saturday’s meeting will be held on Thursday afternoon.

Sedgefield, which has a meeting scheduled for Sunday, was covered in 15cm of snow on Wednesday afternoon, while Lingfield, which stages an all-weather fixture on Friday, recorded temperatures of -10C on Tuesday night.

And with the Cheltenham Festival less than a fortnight away, clerk of the course Simon Claisse reported that the track is expected to receive four to six inches of snow over the next few days.

Snow has already forced the cancellation of two meetings in Ireland this week and, with further snow expected on Thursday and Friday, the fixtures scheduled for Navan on Saturday and Leopardstown on Sunday and Monday are already in jeopardy.

The meetings scheduled for Clonmel on Thursday and Dundalk on Friday were cancelled on Wednesday due to the adverse weather forecast and hazardous driving conditions.

And the Curragh, Ireland's biggest training centre, has been badly hit by weather which brought heavy snow to many parts of the country on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Daytime temperatures are expected to rise above freezing on Saturday for the first time this week in many parts of Britain and Ireland, and then increase significantly early next week.

The two all-weather fixtures at Newcastle and Kempton programmed for Thursday are subject to morning inspections.

Newcastle, forced to cancel its meeting on Wednesday owing to snow, will inspect at 8am, while Kempton officials will have a look at 11am ahead of its evening meeting.

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford said: “It’s very cold with a band of snow forecast to arrive from noon on Thursday. There is the potential for 5-10cm throughout the day which would put racing in doubt on access/safety grounds.”

Friday’s meeting at Doncaster has already been lost, while Chelmsford will inspect at 1pm on Thursday.

Kelso’s Saturday meeting has joined the list of casualties, and more could follow over the next 24 hours as racing feels the full effect of the Arctic conditions.

Southwell will stage an additional all-weather fixture on Sunday, with entries due to close at noon on Thursday.

Cumbria trainer Nicky Richards, who won Newcastle’s Eider Chase on Saturday with Baywing, said on Wednesday: “We’ve a couple of inches of snow here already. It’s very disruptive, and means long mornings for the staff, but they’re a great bunch and have all got stuck in.

“The horses are generally very fit at this stage of the season. Keeping them dry and warm is the main thing, but we want to keep them on the move as well.”

Nick Alexander, who trains in Fife, Scotland, said: “We’ve now got a red weather warning – the highest possible level – and are expecting a lot more snow, which is alarming. Let’s hope we can get back to normal next week.”

Fakenham clerk of the course David Hunter reported that the track’s belated staff Christmas party, which was arranged for Wednesday, had to be cancelled due to the snow.

“We’ve got five inches of snow,” Hunter said. “You need a four-wheel drive to negotiate the minor roads so we had to cancel our very late Christmas lunch as the staff couldn’t get here. That was tragic.”

The Curragh: was hit with eight inches of snow
Pat Kelly, manager of the Curragh training grounds, said on Wednesday: "We were very badly hit. We had about eight inches of snow and we were completely shut down.

"There wasn't a horse to be seen on the training grounds today and, with a forecast for further snow, it will probably be the same story for the rest of the week."

Paddy Graffin, clerk of the course at Navan, said on Wednesday: "The course is covered with snow. Things are looking bleak for Saturday's meeting."

Leopardstown, too, was covered with snow on Wednesday and the track’s chief executive Pat Keogh said: "We'll see what happens overnight and in the morning and make a statement on the situation in the afternoon."

Gordon Elliott, who reported almost four inches of snow at his County Meath stables, said: "The staff here did a good job and we were able to keep our gallops open and work away."

It was a similar story with Willie Mullins, who said: "We had four to five inches of snow, but we were able to carry on as usual and all our lots were able to work on the gallops."

Henry de Bromhead, based in Tramore on the south-east coast, said: "We had a light covering of snow and weren't badly affected. We were able to do what we wanted. The forecast is bad, so we'll have to see how the next few days go."

Paul Nolan, who trains in County Wexford, said: "We escaped the worst of the snow and were able to keep the show on the road. What happens next with the weather is the concern."


Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com


Weather prospects

Thursday

Kempton (AW): inspection 11am Thursday; 5-10cm snow forecast from noon

Ludlow: cancelled

Newcastle (AW): inspection 8am Thursday, course raceable after snow but more forecast

Taunton: cancelled

Clonmel: cancelled

Friday

Chelmsford (AW): inspection 1pm Thursday due to forecast snow

Doncaster: cancelled

Lingfield (AW): covered in light snow with more snow showers forecast

Newbury: cancelled

Southwell (AW): course to be worked on overnight

Dundalk (AW): cancelled

Saturday

Chelmsford (AW): snow forecast Wednesday

Doncaster: Friday's card cancelled, four inches of snow on course; inspection midday Thursday

Kelso: cancelled

Lingfield (AW): covered in light snow with more snow showers forecast

Newbury: Friday's card cancelled; frost covers on course

Newcastle (AW): course raceable after snow but more forecast

Navan: severe cold weather and snow forecast

Sunday

Huntingdon: course frozen, snow forecast Friday

Sedgefield: inspection 7am Friday, course under 15cm of snow

Southwell (AW): course being worked on overnight

Leopardstown: Unfit for racing after 7.5cm of snow Tuesday night. More snow forecast


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