Talking Horses: Heatwave forces Southwell to abandon meeting early

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Southwell decided to abandon the final two races on the card as temperatures continued to soar.

Southwell’s attempt to beat the hot weather by staging a meeting two‑and‑a-half hours earlier than planned proved only partially successful on Thursday, when the stewards decided to abandon the final two races on the card as temperatures continued to soar.

Five races had already been run without incident before the decision to abandon the contests scheduled for 2pm and 2.30, which a spokesperson for the British Horseracing Authority said had been taken due to a “combination of the distance of the final two races and the continual rise of temperatures on course [which]meant there was agreement that it was not safe for racing to continue”.

Charlie Moore, who was the acting clerk of the course on duty for the day, said: “There was no one eager to go on in the conditions. We had six vets here, four of our own and two of the BHA, and we were all aware it was getting hotter and it was decided to hold an inquiry into the situation. At that inquiry there was no one voting against the facts.”

The move left some participants baffled, however, including the Irish trainer Mark McNiff, who had made a 450-mile round trip from his base in County Sligo to saddle a single runner in the 2pm race.

“They’d done everything humanly possible in the best interests of the horses,” McNiff said. “The ground was watered unbelievably well, they had shelters up with loads of water on hand, and I see no reason why the last couple of races couldn’t have been run.

“If it was too warm, the races before that should have been called off an hour-and-a-half earlier. If the ground had dried out to be unsafe or there were horses collapsing or something, you’d say they were right. But there were no horses that collapsed, the ground was extremely safe. So what was the difference? If the 1pm and the 1.30 got away without mishap, what was stopping the next two races getting away without mishap?”

Here, racing continued through the heat of the afternoon as the temperature climbed past 35C and the winners included Walk In Marrakesh, with Frankie Dettori in the saddle, in the Listed Star Stakes for two-year-olds.

Dettori felt that his mount might have been feeling the heat after -making all the running as she began to ran out of steam in the closing stages. However, Mark Johnston, her trainer, was satisfied that the track’s preparations for the hot weather had been fully vindicated.

“Travelling them would be far more of a concern to me than being on the racecourse,” Johnston, who is also a qualified vet, said. “We take more precautions than most on a normally hot day, putting wet sheets on horses and so on, and we’ve always done that.

“We’ll give them a bit of extra water [at the track]and throw plenty over them, but I’m not overly concerned by this. Let’s enjoy it, and let the horses enjoy it. The further you go [in distance]maybe it makes a difference, but other countries race in much warmer climates. We take our horses to Dubai, albeit that they train early in the morning and race at night, but you’re still out in temperatures like this.”

Greg Wood’s Thursday tips

A stayers’ handicap for three-year-olds is the most valuable event on the card at Sandown this afternoon and it promises to be quite a test on what is expected to be the hottest day in Esher for many a year. But it also offers an obvious candidate for the best bet of the day, as William Haggas’s Space Walk (2.50) can make his handicap off a mark of 80, when the time and style of his win at Haydock in June might have pointed to something closer to 90.

To be fair to the handicapper, that was only a five-runner race and Space Walk got home by less than a length after making all the running. The time, though, was very strong and Space Walk showed real grit to hold on for victory. With an extra quarter-mile this afternoon all but certain to see further improvement, his current odds of around 6-4 are perfectly fair.

The six runners in the Listed contest for juveniles at 2.15 have won seven of their combined 10 starts so an informative race is in prospect. The market seems confident that Walk In Marrakesh and Light Blush are the two to focus on but Ursulina (2.05) may have been overlooked after a six-length defeat by Summer Romance last time. That may say more about the winner – who went straight to the top of the market for next year’s 1,000 Guineas – than it does the runner-up and Tom Dascombe’s filly, a 7-1 shot today, is not one to write off yet.

Eligible (4.25) should also go well at the same meeting, while Sweet Forgetme Not (2.05) and Fantom Force (6.30) stand out on the cards at Yarmouth and Newbury respectively.

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