Wintry blast wrecks weekend plan

WEATHER is threatening to ruin the Christmas racing programme for a second successive year, with today's high-profile Ascot fixture an early casualty – and Wetherby already taking steps to protect its crowd-pulling Boxing Day card from the snow and ice.

Even the extensive use of covers failed to help Ascot beat the elements and it became inevitable, after the abandonment of racing yesterday, that today's meeting – where Tony McCoy was due to ride the twice World Hurdle winner Big Buck's in the Long Walk Hurdle – had no chance of surviving the elements.

"I think that I might have to cry," lamented McCoy who was due to deputise in the saddle for the injured Ruby Walsh. The 15-times champion believes that Big Buck's is one of the best horses that he has ridden, and has sufficient scope to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2012.

While Southwell expect no problems today, the turf action at Haydock, and the all-weather card at Lingfield, will both have to pass early morning inspections. Newcastle – like Ascot – conceded defeat yesterday.

The immediate outlook does not look promising. Carlisle's meeting tomorrow has been abandoned, though Kempton hope to host all-weather action. There is no sign of a let-up any time soon.

Tuesday's Hereford fixture is subject to a 10am check tomorrow, while the fixtures set for Musselburgh and Ludlow on Wednesday are already in jeopardy.

Like Kempton, which has already covered its turf track in an effort to safeguard Boxing Day's much-anticipated King George card when the great Kauto Star seeks an unprecedented fifth-successive victory in the feature, Wetherby officials are taking similar precautions prior to its Boxing Day card and the Castleford Chase on December 27.

Both meetings were lost 12 months ago, and clerk Jonjo Sanderson is taking no chances with the weather.

"We are doing our best to cover the course with frost covers but the snow and wind are not helping," he said. "The forecast is for a cold weekend, with temperatures not set to go above zero, but hopefully there is a bit of warmth on the horizon next week."

One meeting unlikely to succumb to the weather is Doncaster's four-day St Leger festival next September, with tickets going on sale on Monday in response to unprecedented demand.

There are several special offers, with the Town Moor course also offering an 'Early Bird' special for Ladies Day, the third day of the festival. Grandstand tickets for the event will be reduced by 5 to just 20 if booked before midnight on May 31.

As this year's record breaking attendances illustrated, with over 65,000 people thronging the course, the most historic Classic is a spectacle not to be missed.

Managing director Mark Spincer said: "The Ladbrokes St Leger Festival is the premier sporting and social occasion for South Yorkshire and the North Midlands and is one of the biggest and most exciting fixtures in the international racing calendar."

APPRENTICE jockey Julie Burke is to be the recipient of Beverley Racecourse's prestigious Kyne Wilson Scholarship for 2011.

Now in its second year, the award honours the memory of apprentice jockeys Jamie Kyne and Jan Wilson who tragically lost their lives in a fire in Malton in September 2009. The scholarship supports a Yorkshire-based apprentice each year and includes sponsorship and support, with a package worth 4,000.

Burke is employed by leading Thirsk trainer Kevin Ryan and has been based in England since July.

The 21-year-old hails from a racing family in County Kildare and has been riding in races for three years.

DAVID O'Meara is hoping Trans Sonic's liking for Southwell will stand his charge in good stead today, despite his high handicap mark.

The seven-year-old usually reserves his best form for the Nottinghamshire venue where he is a four-time winner.

"He ran last week there and ran quite well, but we had been held up a bit by the weather," said the North Yorkshire trainer.

"He's never been competitive off a mark as high as this.

"We've got a claimer on again to give him every chance, but the horse needs a bit of leniency from the handicapper.

"He does love to run at the Southwell course and if he can win a few quid we'll keep him on the all-weather rather than send him back hurdling. He'll be doing his best and hopefully he'll run okay."