GROUND staff at Doncaster have been praised for undertaking an unprecedented watering operation to ensure safe ground for the National Hunt racing on Town Moor this winter.
The six-strong team, led by head groundsman Sam Parker, have pumped a further 35mm of water on the entire track prior to today’s meeting and the Grimthorpe Chase card tomorrow.
These are the final meetings before the resumption of Flat racing on March 30 with the season-opening Lincoln Handicap – the traditional first leg of the Spring double.
While only 31 horses have been declared for today’s seven-race programme on account of the unseasonable conditions, clerk of the course Roderick Duncan is content with the going, which he described as ‘good’.
“We started watering last Friday and haven’t stopped,” clerk of the course Roderick Duncan told The Yorkshire Post. “We have watered before every jumps meeting this winter and this is unprecedented.
“In living memory only once before has the course been watered for National Hunt racing. It was a few years ago and it totally froze over, and they didn’t race the next day.”
It is not lost on Duncan that the corresponding fixture was lost last year after the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ hit the racing programme.
The dilemma today will be whether to water the track prior to racing tomorrow – or hope the forecast rain arrives in time to ensure going is no quicker than good for National Hunt horses who are bred to race on more attritional ground.
“The ground staff have worked really hard. Never before have they had to work through a winter like this – and no praise is high enough,” added Duncan who is also philosophical about the number of entries today.
They range from seven runners for each of the first two races to a match between just two horses, Sussex Road and Poppy Kay, in the concluding novice chase.
“I have received a lot of criticism from trainers over the years, but I wouldn’t criticise them for not running their horses. It is their call,” he added. “But we’re confident in calling it good ground.”
Richard Fahey has called time in the long and successful career of his popular sprinter Kimberella.
The Malton trainer took the decision after the nine-year-old was found to have a slight problem.
It brings to an end the exploits of a speedster who was successful on both turf and all-weather surfaces.
Kimberella won 12 races and was placed a further 23 times in 89 starts and earned over £416,000 prize money.
“I just decided to call it a day with him, but at least he will retire sound in the end,” said Fahey. “He wore his heart on his sleeve and never let you down.”
Kimberella’s wins included All-Weather Sprint Championship at Lingfield and also the Listed Queensferry Stakes at Chester in 2017 and 2018.
Paul Nicholls has confirmed Quel Destin, a recent winner at Haydock, is on track for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham – a Grade One race for four-year-old juveniles.
“Quel Destin jumps well and keeps galloping so he is one of our leading chances at Cheltenham,” enthused the former champion trainer. “This lad has it all and is a proper jumping horse. He keeps winning and is getting better with every run.”
Yorkshire Racing Club are holding a Cheltenham preview night on Monday night. It will take place at Pudsey Liberal Club from 7.45pm with panel members including former Gold Cup-winning jockey Andrew Thornton and racecourse commentator Gareth Topham.