Racing: Trainers left fuming after washout on all-weather

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Wolverhampton's all-weather racecourse did not do what it said on the tin yesterday. It rained and then the meeting was called off. Rain must be a factor when consideration of the weather in Britain comes into play.

Several trainers who had led their horses to the water but found they could not have them run, were mightily distressed by the day. There were calls for a change in the management team, which, in more rustic parlance, was a request to see heads in a wicker basket.

There had been precipitation at the Midlands track on Sunday and then again yesterday morning, and such became the saturation on the paddock bend that a deputation of jockeys decided they would not be risking their necks on the surface.

"There's no question it's not safe," Tony Culhane reported. "If you met it wrong you could be in serious trouble."

That was the cue for a conga of disgruntled trainers to emerge, including Nick Littmoden, who praised the course management with the word "incompetence". "You don't mind losing the occasional meeting to frost," Littmoden said, "but to lose it to rain is an insult to everyone's intelligence. They were trying to sort the problem by dragging sodden sand across the track to throw on more sodden sand. All that was going to produce was a bloody mess, which is what it did. A decent management team needs to be put in place, because there clearly isn't one there at the moment."

Littmoden's call is to fine tracks which abandon late and to introduce compensation packages for those who have embarked on their journeys to cancelled meetings. In fellow trainer Patrick Haslam he has a keen seconder. Haslam said: "It's outrageously bad management that they couldn't deal with the situation. I would be interested to know at what stage they realised they had a problem, and what preparations ­ if any ­ were made on Sunday to prevent this happening. I am sure that Sunday has a part to play in this. My lads travelled down on the Sunday and spent last night in Wolverhampton, and all for nothing. I shall be demanding full compensation."

James Given, who turned the wagons round to his stables at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, added: "It does beggar belief in this day and age that Wolverhampton have done everything they possibly could and they get caught out like that."

The leaves on the tracks material came from general manager David Roberts, who said the question of compensation was one for the directors of the Arena Leisure plc, which owns the racecourse. "People think of snow and frost as weather extremes, but rain can be just as big a problem and this is not the first time we've seen that," Roberts said. "It's the pace at which the rain comes, allied to the amount of moisture already in the ground."

Arena's director of racing, Ian Renton, admitted to struggles with the surface at Dunstall Park. "The problem is water," he said. "A very small part of the track has become sloppy. The track has drained as best as it can but it hasn't been able to cope with it."

Arena Leisure, who own Britain's three all-weather courses, admitted they are looking at replacing the Fibresand at the Midlands track with a Polytrack surface. Renton added: "We are well aware that it is not of the same calibre as Lingfield, which is why we are seriously considering looking at replacing the base and the surface there to what we have at Lingfield. We cannot commit ourselves at the moment, but it could happen at quite an early stage."

* Today's Newton Abbot card hinges on a 7am inspection following 16mm of rain yesterday. Rain was forecast overnight.