Friday 23 March 2018

Leopardstown doubt as lengthy lay-off on cards

Damien McElroy

Irish racing's professionals and followers alike are bracing themselves for up to another week of inactivity on our tracks as persistent frost and snow showers seem set to scuttle this weekend's schedule.

Both Punchestown, where action is due again on Saturday, and the following afternoon's higher-profile fare at Leopardstown are under severe threat with each venue deemed unraceable yesterday.

A hard night's frost compounded by a fresh dusting of snow have left the management at each track hoping for a little respite even if Met Eireann's short-term prediction is for some more of the same conditions.

"It's a cold day here with frost expected each night and daytime temperatures probably not getting above three degrees at best. Unfortunately the cold spell is to continue into next week," said Leopardstown manager Tom Burke.

"All we can do now is monitor the situation on a daily basis," he added, as a total of 32 acceptors figured after yesterday's initial declaration deadline for Sunday's Grade B MCR Group Handicap Hurdle.

The Irish-owned specialist services company, whose managing director Douglas Taylor has some horses in training here, are the new sponsors of both this €100,000 contest and the Grade Two Leopardstown Novice Chase.

The company's welcome involvement at the Dublin course could result, if the weather relents, in a maximum field for the former Pierse Hurdle as Carthalawn, third to shock scorer Penny's Bill and Psycho a year ago, and Moville were quoted as the 8/1 joint favourites by William Hill.

Champion trainer Willie Mullins has left in four of his charges, notably the new top weight Thousand Stars and Tawaagg which are on the 10/1 mark alongside the in-form Steviemac and Cockleshell Road.

Punchestown's racing manager Richie Galway similarly is just hoping for the best at the moment as he readily admitted to being "more hopeful than confident" that a thaw will allow them proceed on Saturday.

"The forecast in the short-term is not helpful and we should know more on Thursday. But we footed back the track after our New Year's eve meeting ahead of the bad frost and we're ready to go if the weather allows," he said.

Contingency plans are in place there, according to Galway, to reschedule the fixture at some juncture in the next 10 days, though hopes of doing so next Wednesday are likely to be rather optimistic still.

Indeed it's quite possible now that the next meeting to be held on turf in this country will be at Thurles tomorrow week as the situation in Britain remains equally frustrating for the jumping fraternity in particular.

Thursday's meetings at Huntingdon and Ludlow have already been abandoned, with inspections also planned for today's all-weather cards at Lingfield and Kempton.

Even the new Welsh course at Ffos Las where the revived Welsh Champion Hurdle is down for decision on Saturday is struggling to cope with frost and snow that however showed signs of melting yesterday afternoon.

The British Horseracing Authority have a standby scenario, in the event of definite improvement underfoot, to stage a hurdles-only card there that would include the Tolworth Hurdle lost at Sandown last Saturday.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport