Wetherby, Sedgefield, Market Rasen, Huntingdon and Wolverhampton all issued pessimistic bulletins yesterday, but no problems were reported by Kempton, Newton Abbot or Wincanton. Edward Gillespie, clerk of the course at Wetherby, said: 'The course is frozen and one can't be too optimistic at this stage. We need a considerable improvement but the forecast is not encouraging.' None of the five courses could have raced yesterday.
The forecast going at Kempton is now good to soft, with little or no rain expected, news which caused Tipping Tim, the mud-loving Mackeson winner, to take a sharp walk in the King George market. He is 14-1 from 10-1 with Coral, while the same firm also trimmed last year's runner-up, Docklands Express, to 8-1 from 10-1.
The bookmakers' job will become considerably easier when Miinnehoma's schedule is confirmed. The gelding was one of five Martin Pipe-trained declarations at yesterday's five-day stage for the Welsh National on 28 December, but last year's Sun Alliance Chase winner may yet tackle the best at level weights in the King George.
Pipe has won the Welsh National in three of the last four seasons, and counts the 5-2 ante-post favourite, Run For Free, among his powerful team for this year's renewal. Another of his entries, Chatam, is the new top weight on 11st 7lb following the anticipted defection of Cool Ground, and a probable starter along with Bonanza Boy, winner of the race in 1989 and 1990.
Another horse with options is Royal Gait, the champion hurdler. James Fanshawe's gelding will definitely return to action next week, weather permitting, but his trainer, James Fanshawe, has yet to choose between the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Monday and the Bookmakers' Hurdle at Leopardstown the following day.
The former race promises a richer reward, but necessarily stiffer competition too, with Granville Again, Mighty Mogul, Oh So Risky and Kribensis among the 10 entries. 'The Irish race does look easier, but I'm not leaning especially towards one or the other,' Fanshawe said yesterday.Reuse content