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.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little