Yorkshire courses aim to beat the big freeze

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WETHERBY officials are crossing their fingers they miss the worst of the predicted frost ahead of tomorrow’s Towton Novices’ Chase that should feature Sue Smith’s highly promising Mr Moonshine.

The West Yorkshire course has been virtually frost free all week but temperatures were set to dip markedly last night.

No inspection is currently planned, but clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson said: “It’s what is going to come that is the problem.”

Locally, today’s Catterick meeting is subject to an 8am check after passing a preliminary inpsection yesterday – the harshness of last night’s frost will be the determining factor.

However, there is no second chance for today’s Chepstow card, which was abandoned yesterday after frost penetrated the track covers.

Ffos Las are pulling out all the stops ahead of tomorrow’s Welsh Champion Hurdle. The entire racecourse is covered in protective fleeces to keep as much frost out of the turf as possible.

They are forecasting a weather front bringing in a thaw to arrive in western Wales from later today.

Sandown will inspect at 8am ahead of tomorrow’s card.

Jonjo O’Neill has warned that Synchronised is not a certain starter in the Hennessy Gold Cup on Sunday week.

The nine-year-old catapulted himself into the Grade One league when landing the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

O’Neill immediately pointed to a return trip to the Irish venue on February 12 for the Welsh National winner, but said yesterday: “He is taking his time to recover. He always does. As we speak, I would not say he would not be going.”

Ruby Walsh will ride at the meeting – despite initially being ruled out by a three-day ban that he received at Cheltenham last weekend, and which was upheld by the BHA yesterday.

The suspension does not cover Grade One meetings, though it does exempt Walsh from next Saturday’s top-class Newbury card.

Henry de Bromhead is hoping Sizing Europe’s run at Punchestown on Sunday will put him spot on for the defence of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

Sizing Europe was third behind the ill-fated Golden Silver in the Boylesports.com Tied Cottage Chase 12 months ago, and the County Waterford trainer believes the timing of the Grade Two contest is just right.

He has not raced since winning the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December and is likely to face Big Zeb, the 2010 Champion Chase hero.