They also serve whose fate is only sand. Ice and snow claimed not only the high-class jump card at Ascot but also at Haydock, where yesterday's meeting was called off half an hour before the first race was due to be run. That turned the focus towards Lingfield, where the surroundings glistened white and the temperatures barely rose above zero but the track lived up to its all-weather tag.
Flat racing on artificial surfaces started as a low-grade winter back-up in the face of jumping cancellations but has developed a life and culture of its own. There are decent prizes – yesterday's feature had a purse of £40,000 – and just as importantly, it has prolonged the careers and probably lives of many an old stager.
Take Fromsong, for instance, who notched the 10th victory of a career that began in May 2000, when Kauto Star was less than a month old, in the five-furlong handicap. It was the 104th start for the veteran gelding, who officially turns 12 in 12 days' time. "It's just great to see these old horses keep going," said his trainer, Dean Ivory, "and thank goodness for this branch of racing."
The day's top contest provided a fine end to a splendid year for one of the revelations of the Flat weighing room, Tom Queally. During the mainstream season the 25-year-old Irishman's career blossomed with a vengeance, with five top-level successes here and in the States. Three of them – Midday in the Nassau Stakes and Filly & Mare Turf and Twice Over in the Champion Stakes – were for the man who has helped put him on the map, Henry Cecil, as was yesterday's victory on Tranquil Tiger, his last ride of 2009.
It took all of Queally's strength and tact to get the 5-6 favourite's blinkered head home in front. The five-year-old has plenty of talent but a slight attitude problem and although his rider always felt he had matters under control as he tackled trailblazing Suits Me inside the final furlong, it was only by a nose-bob he prevailed.
"He travelled really well," said Queally, "and then maybe didn't find as much as I thought he would. And with the other horse so close alongside, I didn't have the room to give him a proper smack." The chestnut, who has now won nine times and earned nearly £180,000, pays for his keep in other ways; he is a lead horse on the home gallops for more celebrated bearers of the famous Khalid Abdullah silks, like Twice Over.
At Haydock, ground covers had been deployed but plummeting temperatures in the morning meant not only that the ground started to harden as they were lifted but the birch fences froze solid as well. At Kempton, scene on Boxing Day of Kauto Star's bid for an unprecedented four consecutive King George VI Chases, a tense week for clerk of the course Barney Clifford starts this morning. Snow is forecast and although it could act as an insulator on the covers already down on the chase track, it will not help today's scheduled all-weather fixture at the Sunbury course, where an inspection is planned early.