Midweek bonanza now on the cards


THE MIDDLE of next week could yet see a Grade One bonanza as Fairyhouse’s twice-postponed “Winter Festival” is now scheduled for Wednesday while Punchestown’s John Durkan Memorial Chase card could be switched to Thursday if it fails to escape the clutches of the current cold snap.

Punchestown’s authorities are downbeat about Sunday’s card going ahead as the track is currently covered in snow with little sign of a thaw coming in time.

“The chances of racing on Sunday are very unlikely. We’re covered in snow. That actually is acting as an insulation and the ground underneath is not frozen. A thaw would allow us race. But the forecast is not saying we will get that,” the Punchestown manager Richie Galway said yesterday.

“If the forecast is correct, we will get snow showers through Wednesday and although there is a small chance things might change on Saturday night, we could be in a position to make a decision on Thursday or Friday. If we have to move, next Thursday looks the most likely date,” he added.

Fairyhouse’s triple-Grade One card featuring the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle is now aimed to be run off on Wednesday after the authorities there yesterday ruled out any chance of the fixture, postponed from Sunday, going ahead tomorrow.

“It was inevitable really. We have six inches of snow here. We’re now moving to Wednesday. We’re on Plan G!,” said Fairyhouse manager Peter Roe. “Temperatures are due to start nudging up a little from Friday and based on the forecast we’re getting I would be hopeful about next week. If the Met people are right we should be okay.”

Racing could resume in Ireland at Dundalk’s all-weather flat fixture on Friday night although county council snow ploughs were yesterday removing three inches of snow from the track.

“The expected thaw didn’t come but I am a lot more positive than I was in the morning, now that we are working with the council on these ploughs,” said Dundalk spokesperson, Emma Meehan. “The track is perfect underneath the snow and we will continue to keep working on removing any snow that falls. We don’t want to pack anything, but all being well we should get a run.”

Navan are hopeful of racing on Saturday. Manager Vincent Eivers reported yesterday: “There is snow on the course but you can see green grass through it and that snow could go in a day. It certainly wouldn’t take long for it to dissipate. We will give it every chance and monitor things closely.”

Clonmel is due to race on Sunday and although there was a covering of snow yesterday, the authorities there are still hopeful of going ahead with racing.

“We’re not getting heavy snow falls like in east Leinster and Clonmel is an unusual place in that it is in a pocket when it comes to weather. It could be snowing everywhere else and yet be a lovely day here,” manager DJ Histon said. “It is warmer here today than it was Monday and we’re still hoping.”

Dundalk agree to hold extra meeting on Saturday

HORSE RACING Ireland has approved an additional meeting to be run at Dundalk this Saturday after an approach by the British- based broadcasting company Satellite Information Services which provides pictures to betting shops, writes Brian O’Connor.

With doubts persisting about racing action taking place in Britain and Ireland this weekend, Ireland’s sole all-weather track, which is due to also race on Friday night, looks like stepping into the breach.

“SIS asked us for an additional meeting so they could be sure something would be on at the weekend,” HRI’s race planning manager Shane Doyle said yesterday. “Navan are due to race on Saturday but it is too early for them to make a decision about whether they will be able to race or not.” HRI has come in for some criticism in recent months from the Irish Bookmakers Association over their resistance to racing at Dundalk through the winter.

However, HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh said yesterday: “That is about racing during the close season. There is a very significant difference in putting on an additional fixture at short notice while the season is on.”

A substantial amount of SIS is owned by bookmakers, including Ladbrokes and William Hill.