Officials at Musselburgh have been forced to call off their Cheltenham Festival Trials meeting on Saturday and Sunday as the cold snap bites National Hunt racing hard.
With temperatures dipping well below freezing at the Edinburgh track on successive nights and little prospect of it warming up sufficiently until next week, it was an easy decision for clerk of the course Harriet Graham.
“Very sadly we’ve had to abandon our Cheltenham Trials weekend because of frozen ground,” said Graham in a video posted from the course’s official Twitter account.
“We’ve tried really hard to get this meeting on, we put fleece on the whole course, but unfortunately it was minus 7C last night and the night before and the frost has got underneath the fleeces.
“There’s no prospect of the temperatures rising enough over the next few days for us to get racing on on Saturday or Sunday.
“It’s such a great shame, it is such an exciting weekend, but we can’t beat the weather, I’m afraid.”
The British Horseracing Authority’s head of racing Paul Johnson responded to queries about possibly rescheduling the meeting by saying: “I can confirm that we will not be rescheduling this meeting, but it may be that we add in a fixture in the region.
“That could end up being at Musselburgh and races will be determined by race programme need. Same applies in all regions.”
Musselburgh general manager Bill Farnsworth said: “Musselburgh will seek the opportunity to stage an extra fixture which will meet the needs of horses that would otherwise have raced at our bet365 Scottish Cheltenham Trials weekend.”
Thursday was a second consecutive day of no National Hunt racing in Britain, with Fakenham and Wincanton both frozen off.
After Wednesday’s abandonments at Plumpton and Leicester, the last jumps cards to take place were therefore on Tuesday – at Newcastle and in Northern Ireland at Down Royal.
In advance of a planned inspection at 8am on Thursday, Catterick announced its fixture on Friday has been abandoned after temperatures dropped to -7C overnight in North Yorkshire.
Lingfield will conduct a precautionary inspection at 8am on Friday, for that afternoon’s all-weather card, because of forecast overnight snow.
The Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on Saturday and Sunday is still set to go ahead, although after at one time being threatened by snow, frost could now be the issue.
As a result Saturday’s running order has been amended with the bumper and hurdles races taking place earlier on the card.
Leopardstown’s operations manager David Attwood said: “There is currently rain and sleet clearing this evening, remaining dry for the remainder of the week.
“Temperatures remain cold up to and including the weekend with frost at night.
“The track is currently frost free and has been raceable all week. However, in view of the likelihood of frost on Friday night, we have decided to amend the order of running for Saturday with the hurdles and bumper taking place earlier on the card.”
The track is currently frost free and has been raceable all week
Chepstow’s National Hunt card on Friday was abandoned due to frost following a 2pm inspection on Thursday.
The course tweeted: “Following our 2pm inspection the decision has been made to abandon the fixture tomorrow @Chepstow_Racing as the majority of the track is still frozen with snow and overnight temperatures of -1 which aren’t due to rise until 1pm tomorrow.
“There would not be a sufficient rise in temperature to provide a safe racing surface. ”
Wetherby’s meeting on Saturday, scheduled to feature the Grade Two Towton Novices’ Chase, must pass an 8am inspection on Friday.
Temperatures dipped to minus 6C overnight in West Yorkshire with another cold evening in store.
Sandown is the feature meeting in Britain on Saturday with the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase on the card.
Despite temperatures at the track reaching minus 7C on Wednesday night, clerk of the course Andrew Cooper has not given up hope of racing taking place at the weekend.
He said: “Today has been the first day this week that we would not have been able to race by the start of racing.
“We had a very sharp overnight frost which got down to minus 7C which is by far the coldest night here of the year.
“We have seen improvements throughout the day, we are still not quite there but we are not far off.
“We had two snow risks and we have one tonight and our forecast says we could have one to two centimetres.
“We have still got quite a cold night Friday going into Saturday and we will take stock of the snow that falls tonight. There is a distinct possibility of an inspection on Saturday morning.
“We will take everything into account, but we have still got a chance of racing. It is far from a lost cause and we are hanging in there.”