FFor the fourth time in less than a week, a group of riders and officials were forced to inspect a track midway through Monday’s meeting. The jockeys reported slipping on Lingfield’s home turn in the first contest on what was to be a seven-race card. Unlike similar inspections at Haydock Park, Beverley and Chester in recent days, the meeting was not scrapped but racing continued on the straight course only with the card reduced to five events.
At all four tracks, concerns were expressed that the horses were slipping around the corners. Haydock’s Friday night card was scrapped after two races, while Chester held four races on Saturday afternoon before the meeting was cancelled. The course then sparked controversy by announcing it would not be offering refunds to racegoers because it had run the day’s featured race, a Class 2 handicap, although it said via Twitter on Monday that it “evaluates how we can recognize the disappointment felt by customers, owners, coaches and bookmakers”.
Sally Iggulden, Beverley’s chief executive, said last week that Wednesday’s card was the first in her 22 years on the course that had been dropped midway through the meeting, suggesting how exceptional it is that four British meetings have similar problems with dangerous terrain in such a short period of time.
Heavy rain after an extended spell of dry weather has been mooted as a possible explanation, while Kirkland Tellwright, Haydock’s race director, applied 8mm of water three days before Friday’s map. The meeting then opened on good to soft ground after 6 mm of rain on Wednesday and Thursday, after being qualified as good to firm on Tuesday.
The British Horseracing Authority’s general instructions require that tracks aim to provide “good to firm ground”, while adding that the regulator accepts “some senior managers may wish to produce good ground depending on the topography of their track, the type of ground, weather conditions and/or that they organize two or more consecutive race days”.
Beverley was not watered heading into last Wednesday’s meeting, although a jockey told the Racing Post the rail movements meant the home bend was ‘tight as a right angle’. Beverley and Haydock arranged a reunion from their abandoned cards without incident.
“It’s tough,” Lingfield race director George Hill said Monday. “I didn’t prepare the track differently than I would have done the last few weeks we raced here. This is our fourth turf meeting this month and the track has been prepared in exactly the same way, it’s not like we’ve moved any rails.
“I’m scratching my head why this horse slipped in the first race. This is something we will have our agronomist review next week in case we missed anything. Unfortunately it’s just a situation where we managed to lose two races for safety reasons, we can only apologize to all horse and Arc connections [the track’s owner] will reimburse the owners for these races.
Epsom Racecourse said on Monday that Saturday’s Derby would be held in memory of Lester Piggott, who won the Classic nine times, following his death on Sunday.
Jockeys will wear black armbands in all races at the Derby’s two-day meeting, which opens on Friday, and there will be a minute’s applause around 1.15pm when a race-coloured crown Piggott wore aboard Nijinsky, the 1970 Triple Crown winner, will be posed in front of the legendary rider’s statue on the lawn of the Queen Elizabeth II Stand. An additional minute of applause will take place on Saturday at 4 p.m., half an hour before the start of the Derby.