Racing: Field shrunk by rain

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The Independent Online
STRONG PROMISE and Djeddah yesterday joined the absentee list for today's King George VI Chase. The 1998 Gold Cup runner-up, Strong Promise, was pulled out after overnight rain prompted officials at Kempton to change the going to soft, with good to soft patches. The bad weather wrecked the travel arrangements of Francois Doumen to send Djeddah from Chantilly.

With Tremallt announced as a non-runner on Christmas Day due to a foot injury, a maximum of nine will now line-up.

"We had about 7mm of rain last night and that came after 16mm the previous day," Kempton's clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper, said. "It's certainly made it softer but the ground will be not as bad as last year."

Paul Nicholls aims to run Double Thriller and See More Business, but has expressed concern over the likelihood of soft ground for the latter who won the race two years ago.

But Cooper added: "It looks like we've had the worst of the weather and with a dry 24 hours we could easily end with good to soft ground again. Certainly the conditions should not be any worse than when See More Business won. I'm sure Paul Nicholls will be happy when he sees the ground."

There are no doubts surrounding Ireland's contender, Dorans Pride, confirmed a definite runner on Friday, who was due to make the journey by air from Shannon to Luton yesterday. "It seems like the ground is going to be quite soft but that shouldn't worry Dorans Pride," his trainer, Michael Hourigan, said.

The deteriorating ground conditions have also caused another significant absentee from the Kempton card in Lord Noelie. Henrietta Knight's exciting young jumper will miss the Feltham Novices' Chase, while Nicky Henderson has produced a vet's certificate to explain the absence of Hidebound from the Wayward Lad Novices' Chase.