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In the balance, but still hope for Newcastle’s big weekend card

© Photo Healy Racing

Officials at Newcastle have not given up hope that Saturday’s high-profile fixture will beat the cold snap, after calling a precautionary inspection for 2.30pm on Friday afternoon.

Gosforth Park is due the biggest meeting of its jumps season this weekend, with Constitution Hill set to be the star of the show in his bid for back-to-back victories in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

And having deployed frost sheets across the entirity of the track on Tuesday, the course underneath the covers was reported to be raceable on Friday morning by clerk of the course Eloise Quayle.

However, snowfall in the north east is the initial concern, and Quayle is keen to see what happens in the coming hours.

“The ground itself under the frost sheets is completely raceable, but obviously you can’t say you’re completely raceable at this stage as we’ve got frost sheets all over the track that are covered in snow, which will be difficult to get off,” she said.

“We’ve called a precautionary inspection for 2.30pm this afternoon, that is to allow for the potential snow showers to pass through before reassessing the situation.

“We’re also going to try to have a practice run of taking a sheet off the track, just to make sure that we think it’s going to be doable tomorrow morning, should it not improve much further in terms of the amount of snow that is lying on the fleece.”

Even if the course is deemed raceable on Friday afternoon, a forecast for further freezing temperatures overnight means a second inspection for raceday morning is almost certain to be called.

Quayle added: “The snow is very slowly melting very slowly in the sunshine, but temperatures-wise today we’re not looking at getting much over 3C and it will be getting sub-zero from around 4pm.

“If you were here now you’d think we were mad to even think there might be a possibility of racing going ahead, but once you actually examine the ground you’d understand why we’re going to try our best to go ahead.

“Unless we get a significant amount more snow or the removal of the sheet proves to be much more complicated than we’re hoping, I’d imagine that we’ll be reinspecting in the morning, just to double check that no frost has got into the ground overnight.

“We’ll be looking at temperatures of around minus 4C tonight and temperatures are slow to rise tomorrow, so if we’re frozen at 7.30am tomorrow there will be very little prospect of improvement. If we’re frozen at that stage, then it will be a call to be off.

“We can’t cross that bridge until we get to it and the snow could save us from the frost a bit, we’re just going to have to wait and see.

“I don’t like being stupidly optimistic, but I really wouldn’t be confident in calling it either way at this stage and we’re going to give it every chance.”

Friday’s meeting at Newbury was given the go-ahead, but a precautionary inspection has been called for 7.30am ahead of Saturday’s Coral Gold Cup card.

Covers were put down earlier in the week and they will be reapplied at the end of Friday’s meeting ahead of overnight temperatures which could dip as low as minus 4C overnight.

Newbury will fly the flag for racing in Britain on Friday, with fixtures at Doncaster and Musselburgh both called off following morning inspections.

Fairyhouse is due to stage a classy two-day fixture on Saturday and Sunday, although the opening card is subject to a 7.30am inspection.

Brendan Sheridan, Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board clerk of the course at Fairyhouse, said: “We had a slight grass frost at Fairyhouse this morning following a cold night, but the track is currently fit for racing.

“Having spoken with Met Eireann this morning, the forecast for tonight is for temperatures to get down to minus 3C and not much higher than 2C tomorrow.

“In light of that forecast, we will have an inspection at 7.30am on Saturday morning to assess the situation for day one of our Winter Festival.”

Bangor’s Saturday National Hunt meeting is subject to a precautionary inspection at 8am, while Sunday’s meetings at Leicester and Carlisle will have to pass 11.30am and 12pm checks respectively on Saturday, with Carlisle currently unraceable due to frozen patches of ground.