All eyes are on the weather forecast as Ascot becomes besieged by rain ahead of the British Champions Day meeting on Saturday.
The showpiece occasion brings together the best flat horses from all disciplines for the conclusion of the British Champions Series, but unfortunately the deluge is causing huge concern that the track – which is currently waterlogged in places – might not be up to the task.
At which point, the round course might be taken out of action, with the three races scheduled for that layout moved to the inner hurdles track, which boasts better drainage.
No further rainfall came overnight on Monday, however the forecast for Wednesday through to the weekend looks worryingly wet. Clerk of the course, Chris Stickels, confirmed that there was ‘no significant change’ despite the mini dry spell.
“We had a total of 10mm yesterday,” he said earlier on Tuesday. “We are still heavy on the straight track and heavy, waterlogged in places, on the outer round track. On the inner track it’s a mixture of good to soft and soft.”
Whichever track the meeting takes place on, conditions are sure to be tricky and likely to play a part in the thinking of owners and trainer as to whether they remove their charges from the fray or not.
Gosden Coy on Stradivarius Participation
The soft conditions have left many scratching their head as to whether to declare their horses or not, and John Gosden has a big decision to make with regards to his outstanding stayer Stradivarius.
The two-time Stayers’ Million champion has nothing to prove given his incredible unbeaten run, and Gosden is thought to be coy on whether to remove the prize asset of owner Bjorn Nielsen from the fray.
The trainer said:
“We’ll have to wait and see what track we’ll be on. The most important thing I can do is see how it is and walk the track on Saturday morning, as I did last year, and make a final decision.”
It’s unusual for high profile flat races to be run in such soft conditions, and even though Stradivarius has won on yielding ground in the past it’s a risk that Nielsen and his advisors might not be willing to take given that this is the final assignment of the UK and Irish season.
The big-lunged superstar would be aiming for an eleventh straight win at Ascot, a haul which confirm his status as one of the finest horses on the planet, and he would have gone off as the odds-on favourite for the Long Distance Cup, a renewal in which he has enjoyed success before.
Another megastar that will definitely miss out on the trip to Ascot is Enable.
She missed out on a historic hat-trick of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe wins a week or so ago, and it has now been confirmed that owner Prince Khalid Abdullah is considering whether or not his stellar horse will run again or be retired to stud.