Weather concerns and heatwave blamed for small fields at Newmarket
The scorching heatwave and uncertainty over the weekend weather are among the reasons put forward for the lack of runners at Newmarket on Saturday.
Racing has traditionally moved to the July course for the Betway Criterion Stakes and Listed Fairway Stakes, but in these unusual times Newmarket has kept the action to the Rowley Mile for what is the ninth fixture since racing resumed earlier this month.
Saturday's card includes two four-runner handicaps, with just 51 runners declared across the eight races.
While watering took place on Tuesday and Thursday – following 37mm of rain last week – to maintain the good to firm going, the weather forecast continues to waver over whether heavy thunder showers will hit the course.
Michael Prosser, Newmarket's racing director and clerk of the course, said: "Ideally we wanted more runners but we understand the uncertainties and the heat worries.
"I understand the worries of trainers as at the last meeting we were getting those wanting it not to rain and those wanting the 10mm we got in 20 minutes.
"Our forecast keeps changing and it's difficult to predict. Friday is the last of the warm days and then the forecast includes thundery downpours – last week we got one but Hamilton Road [behind the course] remained dry."
Prosser added: "We will have extra hoses and ice to put in the water tubs for the horses' welfare.
"It's difficult to prepare for the meeting but what's important is we are racing. The Criterion field averages eight over the last ten years and we have a cracking renewal with last year's winner Limato back."
In contrast to Newmarket's small fields, Southwell is bracing itself for a jamboree start to the delayed jumps season next Wednesday, after receiving 249 entries for eight races.
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