Rain dances answered as courses receive welcome downpour
The prospect of further watering having to take a place before the start of the Open meeting at Cheltenham has been ended by substantial rainfall that was welcomed by racecourse clerks and trainers across Britain.
After an unseasonably dry spell which has led to a spate of small fields in jumps races, the weather took a significant turn, resulting in the ground easing at all three jumps meetings on Wednesday.
As much as 18mm of rain was recorded at Cheltenham to change the going on both chase and hurdles courses to good, good to soft in places, with further to come at the weekend, though it was not enough to prevent the cross-country chase being cancelled and replaced by a veterans' handicap chase.
Cheltenham clerk of the course, Simon Claisse, said: "We got more than had been anticipated but the cross-country course was so far behind in terms of irrigation. I had been saying it needed 70-80mm to have half a chance. We couldn't expect an inch of rain to suddenly make the cross-country fit. It's still firm, hard in places.
"It's now meant to be mostly dry until Friday night after racing, when we could get another 10-12mm running into Saturday morning, and then a dry afternoon Saturday and dry Sunday. We look frost-free."
Claisse, who said the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase could now be run in January, added: "It has been a particularly challenging time, made more so by the volatility of the weather and forecasts which change frequently.
"It demonstrates the difficulty we all have in trying to take decisions about intervention with irrigation when the forecasts are all over the place. Our particular consultant, John Kettley, has done well."
Sandown had 26mm of rain, prompting clerk of the course Andrew Cooper to tweet: "November already wetter than the whole of October. Watering system hopefully put away."
At Haydock there was 16mm, leading Kirkland Tellwright to declare: "The drought has ended. Rightly or wrongly I took the line that we would engage in a policy of masterful inactivity because I've never known Haydock in mid-November not on the easy side of good.
"We've gone from a situation where we broke the two-year-old track record in October because we had a tail wind and fast ground. Then it carried on that way until about a week ago, when we started to get rain. We've not raced so have been able to sit back and watch. I've a lot of sympathy for those that haven't had it that easy."
More runners expected
The rain was particularly welcomed by trainer Venetia Williams, who has sent out just three runners since August.
"I wouldn't say it has been challenging, more frustrating," she said. "Hopefully more rain is on its way now. I should think we will have some action somewhere this weekend."
Philip Hobbs added: "We had 10mm at our place last night and Cheltenham has gone good to soft today, so we're delighted."