Weather may wash away the Causeway

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The Independent Online

The course management at Ascot have been concerned that, because of fears over fuel shortages, bookings for this weekend's Festival are down by 50 per cent. With Giant's Causeway top of the bill, any true follower of racing should be prepared to walk, crawl or roller-skate to Ascot to see the great horse in the flesh and a more severe threat to the meeting's attendance figure is the possibility that Giant's Causeway might miss the meeting because of the softening ground.

The course management at Ascot have been concerned that, because of fears over fuel shortages, bookings for this weekend's Festival are down by 50 per cent. With Giant's Causeway top of the bill, any true follower of racing should be prepared to walk, crawl or roller-skate to Ascot to see the great horse in the flesh and a more severe threat to the meeting's attendance figure is the possibility that Giant's Causeway might miss the meeting because of the softening ground.

Two days ago the going at the Berkshire track changed from good to firm to good to soft with good patches. Yesterday the patches had become soft as a further 3mm of rain fell.

Despite £150,000 on offer in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Aidan O'Brien is more concerned about his charge impressing an American audience and has said that Giant's Causeway will bypass Ascot in order that his chance in the Breeders' Cup Classic on 4 November is not jeopardised.

Clive Brittain, who also has a Breeders' Cup prize, the Turf Distaff, in view for Crimplene is, typically, not perturbed by the deteriorating ground. "I certainly won't be using the going as an excuse not to run," Brittain said. "Indian Lodge is going to be a big danger as he's already won a Group One on soft ground. I also consider Best of the Bests a big threat. I trained him last year when he ran in the Royal Lodge Stakes at this meeting on soft ground."

The weather is also threatening the quality of the field for Sunday's renewal of the Royal Lodge with Michael Stoute's No Excuse Needed a possible absentee if the ground is soft.

That could leave an opportunity for Richard Hannon's Prizeman to make the step up into Group company. The unbeaten colt has registered wins in a maiden race at York and a Listed contest at Newbury.

"He's progressing," Harry Herbert, manager for the colt's owners, Highclere Racing, said yesterday. "Prizeman has a high cruising speed, but we'll know a lot more about how he fits into the Classic picture after Ascot. His sire, Prized, is unusual in that he won Group One races on dirt and turf," Herbert said. "He won over one and a half miles on turf, so the Derby trip shouldn't present a problem for Prizeman."

Willie Musson will find out today whether Indium will be allowed to attempt a repeat victory in a £50,000 handicap at Ascot on Sunday. The horse was banned for 40 days by the Yarmouth stewards last Wednesday after his apprentice rider, Phil Shea, was found guilty of failing to reach the best possible placing. Shea received a seven-day suspension and Musson was fined £2,500. If today's appeal to the Jockey Club's Disciplinary Committee fails, Indium's suspension will begin tomorrow.

Perth's card today passed an inspection yesterday, but overnight rain would put the card in jeopardy. Yesterday's card at the Scottish course was abandoned due to waterlogging. Tomorrow's meeting at Redcar is subject to an inspection at 3.30pm today. There is standing water in places on the course.

The Ferdy Murphy-trained Mac's Supreme made the trip from Middleham to the Listowel Festival pay off yesterday with victory in the £49,000 Kerry National. Confidently ridden by Timmy Murphy, the 6-1 winner held the 13-2 chance River Cora by two and a half lengths.

* Saturday's Irish St Leger winner, Arctic Owl, was yesterday confirmed on course for the Melbourne Cup on 7 November. His trainer, James Fanshawe, said: "He goes into quarantine on 2 October and hopefully we'll have learnt from our fifth last year with Travelmate."

* The prospects of the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, having to determine next year's Levy has increased as agreement has not been reached on the scheme between the BHB and Bookmakers' Committee. If an agreement is not achieved by 31 October, the matter will be referred to the Home Secretary.

* Arena Leisure, owners of six racecourses, are preparing a £325m bid to the Racecourse Association for the terrestrial television rights and interactive betting rights to British horseracing. If successful, the company would be in a key position to negotiate with Channel 4 and the BBC over access to terrestrial television coverage.

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