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Tracks ready for starter's orders

Thurles were again forced to abandon their meeting scheduled for tomorrow as the ground failed to thaw out in time for what was scheduled to be an all-chase card.

However, determined not to lose the two-day fixture, action will now go ahead at the Tipperary venue on Saturday and Monday instead.

The all-hurdle meeting, which was due to take place today, will now be held on this Saturday, while Monday is the new day for the all-chase fixture that was to take place tomorrow.

Naas, Fairyhouse and Cork were all unraceable when entries were released for the weekend's three meetings, although prospects of action are beginning to look up, and both Naas and Fairyhouse at least are quite hopeful of racing on their scheduled days of Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Both are hoping to avoid the localised spot flooding that is forecast to begin tomorrow evening, but both have made efforts with Horse Racing Ireland to re-schedule if the weather yet again gets the better of them.


Should Naas be forced to call a halt to proceedings before Saturday, that meeting is likely to be slotted into Tuesday, while should Fairyhouse fall foul they are likely to race next Friday.

The good news from Fairyhouse is that the hurdle track was deemed raceable yesterday evening and it was a similar story at Naas where manager Tom Ryan said that the track was "mostly workable."

Naas already lost their big Slaney Hurdle meeting early in the New Year and are keen to get back racing and hopeful of a big crowd after such a big lull in the sport.

Manager at Woodlands Park Tom Ryan told the Herald: "We are reasonably hopeful. We are happy that the majority of snow is gone off the track and there is just a little bit left in the ditches of the chase track approaching the back straight. Apart from that, I walked the track at two o'clock and I would describe it as mostly workable."

Having watched patiently as the big thaw developed, it is now another problem that brings doubt to Saturday's action going ahead as scheduled.

"The only small thing we are worried about now is this rain that they are forecasting for Friday night," revealed Ryan. "We could do with missing that to be honest. The temperature and the frost doesn't seem to be a problem at the moment -- it's given it to get up to 10 degrees on Friday which is bringing-out-your-swimsuit weather, the way things have been! I will know more on Thursday, but I am an awful lot more hopeful than I was yesterday."

Regarding losing the Slaney Hurdle meeting, Ryan said: "To lose that meeting on the third of January was the biggest hit that the racecourse has taken in my time, and it's just compounded by the fact that we lost three meetings last year. We have lost 28pc of the meetings in the past 11-months.

"We would be happy enough here that we would have survived the general downturn in things if the weather had have stayed out of our way, but look, that's what it is and there is nothing we can do about it unfortunately."


Ryan admitted that this is the busiest time of the year at Naas with a number of races setting horses up for Cheltenham and a dedicated Cheltenham Trial Day in February, which makes the current situation even more frustrating.

"When the weather goes wrong it effects us more at this time of year than any other so I am just hoping it settles down and gives us the next four to six weeks, because if it disturbs us anymore than it has it only deepens the problem and we have a couple of good meetings coming up now.

"Hopefully we'll get the ball rolling on Saturday and you never know maybe more people will come and see us because there has been no racing in so long."

Southwell took the decision to host an all-National Hunt bumper card yesterday in which Barry Geraghty enjoyed a treble for Nicky Henderson as the Co Meath jockey returned to action for the first time since getting married.

There was no joy, however, for Andrew Lynch and Irish trainer Michael O'Hare, who sent over three runners to the all-weather venue. O'Hare was he only Irish trainer to support the initiative despite continued calls from some parties to open Dundalk.

Considering that trainers have in the past sent runners over to the UK both on the flat and over jumps, it probably again justified the decision to keep the Co Louth venue closed during this cold snap.

However, if things looked like they were going to continue without racing here, a move to follow Kempton's decision to hold a National Hunt flat meeting rather than an all-bumper fixture could have been more realistic.

Paul Nicholls has entered the likes of Celestial Halo and Twist Magic on the flat in an initiative that has been called into place in case the track loses its scheduled turf meeting on the same day, which looks increasingly likely.