Flooding threat to Wetherby fixtures

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WETHERBY faces a race against time to save its two-day Christmas meeting after parts of the back straight were left waterlogged after the latest deluge.

The good news, says clerk Jonjo Sanderson, is that the forecast is for sunshine and showers from tomorrow onwards.

The less welcoming news, he warned, is that more rain is due to fall today – and that the track will struggle to host its most lucrative meeting of the year if Met Office predictions are worse than expected.

“We are heavy and the inevitable has happened in the back straight where we have a lot of flooded areas,” said Sanderson. “It doesn’t mean all is lost, it takes a good two days for it to recede and drain away naturally. The river levels are dropping marginally, but we are due another dumping of rain today which will put us back to square one.

“The good news is Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are dry, sunny days. If the river starts to drop, the track should drain – but it will be a very close call.”

If the weather pans out as expected, Sanderson says he is likely to call an inspection for Boxing Day morning. “I want to give the meeting every chance,” he added.

Today’s National Hunt prospects in the North hang in the balance with Haydock’s Tommy Whittle Chase card subject to a 7am inspection.

The track was just about passable yesterday, though more rain was forecast last night. Clerk Kirkland Tellwright said: “Hopefully, we’ll race and we’ll try to stagger through an unpleasant day as best we can.”

The main race is due to feature three Yorkshire runners – Ferdy Murphy’s Rich Lord, the Sue Smith-trained Douglas Julian and Mac Aeda from the yard of Malcolm Jefferson.

Newcastle’s pre-Christmas fixture is already off – and doubts already surround its January 5 meeting after the North East was badly hit by the latest deluge.

“We’ve had an inch of rain in the last 24 hours,” said clerk James Armstrong. “Our concerns now switch to the next meeting. We’ve taken an awful lot of rain and the track has a lot of drying out to do.”

However, Kempton’s head of racing, Barney Clifford, anticipates no problems for the prestigious King George meeting. Though more rain is forecast, he says there is no threat to the meeting because the track drains so well. Clifford will be hoping that his optimism is not misplaced.