Racing: Ballyboy has light task at Ayr: John Cobb offers a survivor's guide to the best holiday bets

SEDGEFIELD became the first faller of the Bank Holiday racing programme when succumbing to snow yesterday and it is short odds that more of today's nine remaining meetings will meet a similar fate.

At Market Rasen and Ayr there will be inspections at 8am and a rise in temperature is needed if the latter is to be saved. 'There's frost in the ground and we wouldn't have been able to race today,' Sam Morshead, the clerk of the course, said. 'But it's forecast to be milder tomorrow and if that happens we should be all right.'

Newton Abbot had seemed unlikely to survive an inspection for waterlogging on Christmas Eve but came through that test, while Huntingdon was passed fit after a check yesterday morning. The other five courses scheduled to stage racing report no problems, while at Chepstow, venue for tomorrow's Welsh National, Rodger Farrant, the clerk of the course, has 'no worries' despite some snow flurries and frost.

The worse the conditions, the more the comforts of the new pounds 15.3m WOLVERHAMPTON all-weather course seem attractive. A historic day for British racing, with two events staged under floodlights for the first time, could be marked in style if the weather closes in and it is just about the only meeting to survive.

The race-title - the Musco Lighting First Ever Floodlit in Great Britain Handicap - tells the story, although what an old stager like the nine-year-old Glencroft will make of it remains to be seen. Petraco (4.05), though, should be the one whose name will end up in the trivia tests, and Lookingforarainbow (2.35), who has won on the all-weather tracks at Lingfield and Southwell and finished second in the November Handicap on turf, looks the best bet on the card.

At WINCANTON a freeze is on the cards, Golden Freeze, the infamous horse that put Carvill's Hill off his jumping in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He has been switched from Jenny Pitman's stable to that of Richard Lee, but has not won over this two-mile trip for nearly six years and will not be able to cope with the up-and-coming Sailors Luck (1.10). With Barton Bank and Nevada Gold likely to be on duty at Kempton, Mudahim (2.10) can take the Mid Season Chase, while recent Irish import Lorna-Gail (1.40) looks an interesting proposition in the 26- runner handicap hurdle in which many of the runners are likely to be protecting their handicap marks for more important races later on.

WETHERBY stages the most valuable race of the day outside Kempton, the Rowland Meyrick Chase, but with Cogent announced a non-runner yesterday the event is lacking its usual quality. Young Benz (2.30), unproven at the trip but an enthusiast for soft ground, may overcome a powerful pair from Mary Reveley's stable. Clyde Ranger deserves to take the novice chase after coming home first in the void race at Kelso 11 days ago, but One Man (1.30) is a formidable opponent whose ability will be reflected by short odds. Home Counties (2.00) is more of a betting proposition, but beware Our Slimbridge if Market Rasen is abandoned and he is switched here.

If MARKET RASEN does go ahead the harsh conditions will make the Lincolnshire National, over 4 miles 1 furlong, a gruelling test. Stay On Tracks (3.05) has been in good form since being bought by Di Haine at the Arthur Stephenson dispersal sale and could triumph over All Jeff in what could be a fascinating trial of durability.

AYR, the other track where a morning inspection has been announced, is along with Hereford a newcomer to this day in the racing calendar. The Scottish track is also making its contribution to history by staging the first of the 'open bumpers' in which professional jockeys are allowed to take part alongside amateurs and conditional riders. Rhossili Bay (3.10) has an obvious chance in that, while My Ballyboy (nap 2.10), who was on the heels of the season's outstanding juvenile hurdler, Mysilv, when falling last time, usually jumps well and is leniently treated on his first foray into handicap company. He could be the bet of the day.

Toby Balding has enlisted two unfamiliar names to ride his horses at NEWTON ABBOT. Craig Thornton, the New Zealander who was champion jump jockey in America last year and who had a victory at Haydock when last in this country six years ago, should resume the winning thread with Ask The Governor (12.45). Eddie Leonard, the former champion Irish apprentice, has been forced to switch to jumping because of weight problems and partners Balding's Gavaskar in the finale. Hold Your Ranks (3.15) finished fourth in a fast-run race last time and may hold too many guns, while Don't Light Up (2.45), twice a course-and-distance winner, looks the meeting's banker despite being just out of the handicap.

Nick The Beak, is an interesting prospect in the novice hurdle at HUNTINGDON, especially if he is a cut above the stable's Nick The Brief, as his name would suggest. With John Upson's yard out of form, though, Nigel Twiston-Davies's Finesse The King (1.00) looks a better proposition.

Whatever the fate of Young Hustler at Kempton, Twiston-Davies seems assured of a winner at HEREFORD, where the progressive Man Of Mystery (3.05) will start at short odds. Happy Horse (2.35) also looks worth a bet there, although it could just be punters' follies that makes him smile.

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