York may attempt Saturday salvage operation

Around half past three yesterday, when two champion thoroughbreds were supposed to be slugging it out up the straight, the wide green horizon of the Knavesmire lay as forlorn and desolate as any ever surveyed by the ancient mariner. Misty curtains of rain swayed across the racecourse, and a flock of seagulls squatted curiously next to one of the lakes that had appeared on the infield.

A few minutes later, a course spokesman appeared, wearing a funereal expression. There was no point, he conceded, waiting for the official inspection scheduled for 4 pm. The overnight forecast now included a severe weather warning for the region, and today's card would have to join yesterday's in the same watery grave. An inspection, moreover, is scheduled for noon today to determine prospects for tomorrow.

The Ebor meeting reliably provides one of the most gorgeous spectacles of the sporting summer, but this time it is proving the most bedraggled, dispiriting of damp squibs. After six inches of rain this month, conditions had already promised to be vile for the showdown between Duke Of Marmalade and New Approach in the Juddmonte International Stakes on the opening card. Indeed, by the time it was abandoned, New Approach was already being broadcast as a non-runner.

By lunchtime, it was no doubt being argued in the city's taverns that the course management had pushed their luck in not calling a precautionary inspection overnight. Certainly the 8.30am abandonment caught many on the hop, and confused, smartly dressed punters were still wandering away from the course at lunchtime. Perhaps this meeting is too dependent on casual racegoers for anyone to have risked sending out negative vibes. But William Derby, the clerk of the course, insisted that the forecast gave him every right to hope that the ground, raceable on Monday afternoon, would not have deteriorated overnight.

"We had a forecast for patchy showers of rain that might miss us," Derby explained. "The Knavesmire, like all other courses, reaches a tipping point where it takes the first 5ml easily in its stride but then gets to a level where it can take no more. There's no science or magic formula for that, and it's difficult to predict, but we clearly reached that tipping point in the early hours of this morning."

Either way, Derby and his team are now being as positive and inventive as they can in trying to salvage something from the mire. Last night they were even exploring the possibility of staging an extra card here on Saturday, though acknowledging the obvious difficulties. Channel 4 is already scheduled to cover racing at Goodwood, Newmarket and Beverley that afternoon, while the Levy Board, British Horseracing Authority and race sponsors were also being canvassed over potential conflicts of interest.

It may yet prove that further rain overnight would require York to draw stumps for the remainder of the meeting anyway. "But we're determined to do everything we can to keep racing on," Derby said. "We've got a blotting machine out there at the moment, and another coming from Durham County Cricket Club tonight."

As things stand, the betting industry reckons to have seen nationwide turnover of £50m slip through its fingers. The Tote handled £1.7m in on-course business alone on the first two days of the meeting last year.

The racecourse itself is insured against losses that would otherwise have been catastrophic, but will be impatient now to proceed with a £2.5m redevelopment to improve the drainage and configuration of the track.

All in all, this test of their stoicism and adaptability was strongly reminiscent of that passed by their counterparts at Cheltenham in March. On that occasion, the second day of the National Hunt Festival was abandoned because of unexpectedly high winds, and big races were redistributed to create marathon cards on the third and fourth days. A similar strategy here would be complicated by the fact that the saturated surface could not cope with too many races. Certainly it is questionable whether connections of Duke Of Marmalade and New Approach would risk their horses on anything other than the fresh ground they expected yesterday, when the big race was the first scheduled on the round course.

Ironically, this was the first time that York had scheduled a fourth day of the Ebor meeting. Given that Cheltenham were only in the third year of a similar innovation, you might almost wonder if somebody up there does not like to see these racecourses getting too greedy.

* Officials at Carlisle were yesterday forced to abandon this afternoon's fixture, and Newcastle's Friday card would threatened if more rain arrives.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Subsea Cables Installation Project Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Subsea Cables Installation Project Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Head of Offshore Operations & Interfaces

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Offshore Engineering Design Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices