Racing: Frost is too bracing for racing

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The Independent Online
RACING remains in the grip of a cold snap that wiped out yesterday's programme and threatens to cause similar damage to the remainder of the week's fixtures.

Six meetings were abandoned yesterday - all three of the afternoon's cards at Ayr, Plumpton and Stratford plus three scheduled for today at Carlisle, Taunton and Warwick.

Only today's meeting at Fontwell survived but the course must pass a 7.30 inspection this morning if it is to avoid becoming the 27th bad weather casualty of the season. Fontwell's clerk of the course, Cliff Griggs, said last night: 'It is 50-50 whether we could have raced today and there is more frost forecast.'

Ireland was also hit. Limerick was the only meeting to go ahead yesterday after the card at Leopardstown, which had been due to feature the return of the Champion Hurdler, Royal Gait, in the Bookmakers Hurdle, was postponed for 24 hours. Officials are optimistic that the track will pass a precautionary inspection at 7am.

The prospects for later this week in Britain are not encouraging. There will be inspections today for two of tomorrow's scheduled meetings - Folkestone (noon) and Catterick (2pm). Frost is also threatening the other jump fixtures at Cheltenham and Leicester.

Philip Arkwright, clerk of the course at Cheltenham, said last night: 'Racing would not have been possible today because of frost. But we will wait until tomorrow morning regarding an inspection because the forecast is quite promising.'

Leicester's Nick Lees reported: 'We couldn't have raced today. The air temperature is minus two but the forecast is not for weather as cold as that and I am reasonably hopeful.' Tomorrow's all- weather Flat card at Lingfield is expected to go ahead.

The hoped-for reappearance of Royal Gait at Leopardstown today is an important part of the nine- year-old's build-up for a defence of his title in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

But James Fanshawe's gelding would have no easy task against several Irish-trained young hurdlers of potential, including Crowded House, Muir Station, Novello Allegro and Sanndila.

David Harrison, one of the Flat season's leading apprentice riders, has left Britain for a 10-week working holiday in Florida. The 20-year-old jockey is staying with top American trainer Tommy Skiffington.