Racing: Ascot chase may be moved

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The Independent Online
A RARE display of initiative may have saved Saturday's big race, the Victor Chandler Chase, from a watery grave. If the meeting at Ascot is abandoned due to waterlogging, the valuable handicap will become the 1.40 race on Warwick's card the same day, writes Greg Wood.

The switch was suggested by Peter McNeile, Warwick's clerk of the course, and warmly endorsed by trainers with entries in the race. Nick Henderson, who will saddle the likely favourite, Billy Bathgate, said: 'I shall definitely support them, it's brilliant. It's a great step forward, we can't afford to lose races like this.'

Bookmakers were equally pleased that the week's principal contest would survive, though bets placed earlier in the week will be void, with stakes returned, if the venue changes.

Some confusion was caused, though, when Ladbrokes eventually opened a book (after having had the opportunity to study Tuesday's market moves), but only on the race at Warwick. Bets with that firm will be void if the Ascot meeting goes ahead.

Perhaps the only clear loser if the race switches will be the BBC, as Warwick's card will be televised by Channel 4. The station is expected to start its transmission from the Midlands track earlier than originally planned to include the Victor Chandler.

But as Edward Gillespie, Warwick's general manager, said: 'In a situation like this you'll only ever please 75 per cent of the people, but that should be enough.'

Gillespie also explained why similar switches cannot take place more often. 'You can't reasonably make a decision after noon on the day prior to racing, and normally you can't call off a meeting more than two days before, so you've only got 24 hours when you can reasonably do it. It's not easy, but it is possible.'

A more straightforward solution to the spate of abandonments is stand-by meetings, the latest of which will take place at Southwell on Saturday (entries close today).

Also expected yesterday was an announcement on the venues for two Sunday meetings, planned for later this year, but the British Horseracing Board postponed a decision, saying that the information so far supplied by seven applicants is insufficient.

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