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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Winter bites back – the best pictures and stories from a white week

Jumps racing is set to return at Thurles on Thursday but Navan is cancelled
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There is not a lot of racing to discuss this week, as severe weather shut down major roads, rail links and busy airports. A field in East Lothian, even a strip of Tapeta in Newcastle, stood little chance.

What didn't stop was the work of stable and ground staff up across Britain, working tirelessly to get meetings on or exercise horses. Here is a selection of the best of their efforts.

Wrong place, wrong time

Inspections on the all-weather: a sign the conditions really have closed in

It is a source of inexhaustible amusement to some that all-weather racing can fall victim to wintry conditions, but it just so happened this week that the very worst of the weather befell a corner of Britain with one of the busiest all-weather tracks.

Newcastle joined Doncaster and Newbury as British tracks to lose two fixtures during the week. Not even the Tapeta was resistant to the bitterly cold conditions and snow. Scenes like the above snapshot became commonplace at all-weather venues on a scale not seen for some years.

Newcastle got the last laugh on the weather, staging a jumpers' bumper card on Saturday, but they had to work hard to get one over on the elements.

Cheltenham waits for no-one


Definitly Red takes some exercise in the snow

Excuses count for little when you have a shot at the Gold Cup. Definitly Red's preparations for the spring showpiece will be completed in unseasonable conditions, but Malton trainer Brian Ellison is leaving nothing to chance.

Ellison isn't just leaving it to his staff either . . .

Watch your step: Brian Ellison braves conditions to oversee his string’s work

Mind over matter

Not too far up the road from Ellison, County Durham trainer Rebecca Menzies found her usual fallback all-weather gallop to be a little less inviting than usual.

When the beach is covered, there's little option but to dig out your own gallops.

Southwell to the rescue

Jumps horses in need of a more serious piece of work, and perhaps a little bit of spare cash for connections, were eventually catered for at Southwell on Friday, where a card of jumpers' bumpers got the National Hunt show back on the road.

There was nothing bumper about the turnout, however, with only eight paying customers coming through the gates.

There was criticism about the meeting going ahead and several runners were scratched due to travel issues, but shy of clearing trainers' driveways it was difficult to see what Southwell, outside of any areas affected by weather warnings, could have done.

Deserted stands and just four bookmakers for this jumpers' bumper meeting

Ireland not immune

All meetings in Ireland were wiped out through the week and several yards had to deal with being hock-deep in something other than testing ground.

In a feature with the Racing Post, Tom Taaffe revealed his stable's struggles with the snow, which left them stranded on-site for much of the week.

Making their way through the snow at Tom Taaffe's yard

What it's all about 

The Beast from the East will soon be forgotten and thoughts will return to the Cheltenham Festival, but even on Tuesday week the effects of the recent cold snap might be felt.

There have been some pretty striking images of the snow-covered track and grandstands at Cheltenham, which in just a few days will be teeming with punters.

Clerk of the course Simon Claisse has admitted there is even a chance of some heavy ground at the course when Champion Hurdle day rolls around on March 13. At least it might be a little warmer and a little less white by then.

Cheltenham on Friday after three inches of snow fell

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Excuses count for little when you have a shot at the Gold Cup

Key data

Definitly Red
E.W. Terms
Sky bet