Trainers raise concern with racing surface after pile-up
The horrific pile-up at St Moritz which led to George Baker being airlifted to hospital is the latest in a series of problems at the track and has prompted some trainers to question the iconic meeting.
Last year the races were run over the straight course, reducing race distances to 800 metres, because of an unsafe surface in the back straight, while two years earlier a meeting was cancelled after five horses fell after the finishing line.
Sunday's meeting was brought forward to the earlier time of 11am to combat potential issues with rising daytime temperatures. However, following the three-horse incident which necessitated the meeting being abandoned, a detailed investigation revealed that a crack in the ice had undermined the racing surface.
Ralph Beckett, who saddled Maverik to win on the white turf in 2012, questioned the timing of this year's meeting. He said: "It is sad as they have been racing there since 1907 quite safely. This is the latest they have ever raced there and you have to question racing later than normal.
"You don't have to be a meteorologist to come to the obvious conclusion."
Manton trainer George Baker, whose Ancient Greece won races at three consecutive meetings at St Moritz in 2013, said he would not be returning.
"I will never bring another horse over again for the meeting," he said. "It is all very sad as it is a magical spectacle.
'We thought it was perfectly safe'
However, trainer John Best defended the St Moritz team.
"I walked the track with my jockey Kieren Fox and he said George Baker had walked it on his first visit and said it looked great. We all thought it was perfectly safe," Best said.
"There was nothing to suggest anything like this was going to happen."
White Turf Racing's PR executive Claudia Grasern-Woehrle said all safety measures had been taken, with the officials having inspected the course before racing with no signs of any problems.
She explained the slightly later dates this year were to avoid clashing with the skiing World Championships in St Moritz.
"It was not a problem," she said. "Horses were out training on the lake the day before and the morning of racing was perfect.
"Conditions were perfect on Friday and nothing had changed – everything seemed fine."