Ar Mad: an unlikely runner if the Clarence House moves to Cheltenham
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Lee Mottershead 7:30PM 20 JAN 2017
THERE could be echoes of the 2008 Cheltenham Festival next Saturday when jumping’s home is set to stage a bumper card boosted to nine races by the addition of the Clarence House Chase, a move that has disappointed the trainer of one of its leading contenders.
Gary Moore said he would be reluctant to run Ar Mad on a track he described as “not fair or conventional”, leading to the prospect of Un De Sceaux being sent off an even hotter favourite for the Grade 1 prize.
All that, however, assumes a frozen Ascot is called off at today’s 6.30am inspection – but even Ascot agreed on Friday that that is a safe assumption.
“If the forecast is correct it looks like it will be a fairly straightforward decision,” said clerk of the course Chris Stickels.
“We wouldn’t have raced today. The forecast indicates temperatures of -3C overnight and it won’t rise much above 3C or 4C tomorrow. We’re fairly pessimistic.”
Although Ascot was first only partly covered, Stickels is sure even the total deployment of blankets would not have changed the anticipated outcome.
He added: “We put covers on the landings, take-offs and up some of the home straight on Tuesday but there’s now frost under those covers. We’re disappointed, but there’s not a lot we can do.”
Cheltenham racegoers are set to be anything but disappointed if the BHA confirms its initial plan to move the Clarence House Chase to a Festival Trials card that had already expanded to eight races with the addition of the cross-country chase lost in November.
However, nine events is still one fewer than the course staged on the Thursday of the 2008 festival, which was lengthened to incorporate ten races owing to the abandonment of racing on the Wednesday.
Moore, far from happy with the intended switch, said: “The BHA rang me this morning and asked if I would like the Clarence House to go to Cheltenham. I definitely wouldn’t want that. It’s not a fair track or a conventional racecourse. I suggested Sandown the following Saturday.
“If they run the race at Cheltenham I think they might get only two or three runners. I’d say it’s unlikely we’d be one of them.”
Assuming Cheltenham does take the Clarence House, the fixture would probably begin around noon.
Negotiations were still taking place on Friday evening over whether the Clarence House would be shown live on ITV4, which had already committed to showing five of the meeting’s features, including the Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase, due to be headlined by Thistlecrack.
Race would be reopened
Although unable to give Cheltenham the green light, BHA head of media Robin Mounsey said: “It’s the BHA’s policy to reschedule cancelled races as soon as possible, in order that they maintain their position in the Pattern, and to provide further breathing space to reschedule the race should future fixtures also be affected by the weather.
“If rescheduled the BHA’s policy for rescheduling races would be to reopen the race for new entries.”
Also threatened is Sunday’s card at Fontwell, whose clerk of the course Ed Arkell said: “We need significant improvement from where we are at the moment.”