Sandown has ‘real fighting chance’ in battle against the weather

Officials at Sandown insist there is “a real fighting chance” that Saturday’s Betfair Imperial Cup meeting will go ahead as planned.

Sandown Park racecourse under snow.
Sandown Park racecourse under snow. Picture: PA Images

The Esher track was fit to race on Tuesday, although persistent wintry showers have subsequently eased the ground to soft, heavy in places.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper said precautions will be taken with the forecast of sub-zero temperatures on Friday evening.

"It has been a difficult 24 hours," he said on Thursday afternoon. "We raced on Tuesday and caught about seven millimetres of rain in the morning before racing, which increased the damage on the day.

"Yesterday we started off with about three centimetres of snow. The rain gauges are showing about 15mm of something here yesterday and we've had bits and pieces today, about 4mm. There is still lingering rain in the mix, certainly until Friday morning, then the forecast is for a frost Friday night into Saturday, just to help things!"

However, while admitting that the track would have "struggled to race" on Thursday, Cooper remains upbeat for the weekend.

"I think we have a real fighting chance," he added. "The frost is a little sting in the tail that we could have done without and because it is so wet and the timeframe we are in, we are not going to cover everything – you'd trash the place just getting covers onto the course.

"We will cover the shaded area in front of the grandstands and all the bits we know are prone to frost sticking around.

"We are getting there. Although there is rain around, it is not heavy rain and things are certainly settling down and gradually improving in terms of ground conditions. Currently we are moving in the right direction."

Hereford's seven-race Saturday card could be in jeopardy, with the course not fit for action at present and an inspection called for 9.30am on Friday.

Clerk of the course Libby O'Flaherty said: "The snow has started to melt, but the track is currently unraceable. We are in the hands of the weather and will give it every chance we can, but we will need a little bit of luck.

"We will have a better idea on Friday morning when all the snow has gone."

Friday's meetings at Ayr and Leicester are subject to inspections at 8am and 7.30am respectively, with Wolverhampton's all-weather fixture also needing to pass am 8am check.

Exeter and Kempton are also scheduled to race.

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