As the weather takes a turn for the worst, the horse racing schedule continues to fall foul of the wet and wintry conditions.
One of the most high-profile casualties has been the Welsh Grand National, which was originally scheduled for December 27 at Chepstow. The Monmouth track was subject to some 100mm of rain in the build-up to the race and a further 27mm overnight as Storm Bella hit, and officials were left with no choice but to postpone the showpiece occasion.
The steeplechase has proven to be a happy hunting ground for previous and future Aintree Grand National champions, and so punters keep a keen eye on those who prevail in the mud. And there’s good news on that front – the Welsh Grand National meeting has now been rescheduled for this Saturday (January 9).
Even happier, the director of Chepstow – Phil Bell – has confirmed that the course is in excellent condition ahead of the new date.
“The track’s in great shape and you can race on it today easily,” he said on Monday.
“We’ve had very little rain since the night before the Welsh National and it’s getting a bit chilly, so we’ll be laying frost covers on Monday. I think we’d be confident at the moment and looking at the forecast.”
Saturday, weather permitting, will be a bumper day for racing fans, with meetings already scheduled for January 9 supplemented by revised cards at Chepstow and Kempton, which will host a couple of high-profile races in the Silviniaco Conti Chase and the Relkeel Hurdle, which has been saved from the wreckage of Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day festival (more on that shortly).
Elsewhere, Wincanton’s festive meeting will also go ahead on Saturday, with the ever-popular Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase on the card.
New Year’s Woe for Cheltenham
At a time when they don’t even know if the Festival in March will go ahead as planned or with/without a crowd, Cheltenham racecourse was dealt a further blow on January 1.
Their New Year’s Day meeting had to be canned after significant rainfall fell on the Cotswolds over the festive period and waterlogged the track, and as yet officials are yet to announce a revised date for the diaries.
A simple tweet from the official Cheltenham Twitter page broke the news:
New Year’s Day Racing abandoned.
Following 85mm of rainfall since last Wednesday, there are areas of waterlogged ground across the width of the course and it is therefore not raceable. pic.twitter.com/jgw9Yg9sDF
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) December 30, 2020
It’s looking increasingly likely that the meeting will not be rescheduled, with a number of key races now being held at other dates. As mentioned, the Relkeel Hurdle will take place at Kempton on Saturday, while the cash-rich Paddy Power Millionaire Chase has been shifted to Trials Day at Cheltenham on January 30.
The betting firm is giving away £/€1 million in cash to a sweepstake winner who had secured their place in the final through a series of qualifying races throughout December – a unique initiative that has helped to generate some much-needed punting interest in the sport in these unprecedented times.