Weekend Racing Blog: No Jumping as Newbury & Warwick Off

Will it be a Blank Weekend of Racing?

We are in the mid-point of the jumps racing season and there is no jumps racing in the UK this Saturday.

Warwick and Newbury are unable to get frost out of their turf so it is going to be a pretty tough day for those that like a weekend bet on the horses.

There’s an inspection at 7.30am on Saturday in Naas, Ireland, to see if they can race and a half-hour later Lingfield stewards will decide if their all-weather track is race-able.

The Surrey track has already abandoned its jumps card for Monday. Another all-weather track, Chelmsford, have been forced to abandon their meeting planned for Saturday.

It’s Time for Re-brand

Since the so-called ‘all weather’ racing was introduced to the UK many meetings have been abandoned because of frost, snow, fog, high winds and flooding.

Clearly it is time they re-named the sport of horse racing on an artificial surface. Maybe it could be called ‘artificial’ albeit virtual racing has probably claimed that one.

In 2018 over sixty meetings were lost to inclement weather and we could be heading towards that tally in 2021. Things are better than they were in the 1970’s and 1980’s when blank Saturday’s in wintertime were commonplace but back then ITV’s World of Sport, fronted by the Dickie Davis, would head off to Harringay greyhounds and bring sporting action from there.

Sand, Salt and Rain Mean a Sequence

It is conceivable that new-age ITV Racing could do the same, sending their cameras to the likes of Monmore or Central Park for some live greyhound racing but judging by recent results at those tracks, the bookmakers would not be keen.

Greyhound tracks have blatantly been laying salt into their sand surfaces which has led to a preponderance of wide-running winners followed by a plethora of scorers starting from the inside boxes.

On February 2nd at Central Park the winners through the card came from: 5-5-5-3-6-6-5-6-6-6-6-6, on the same day Monmore’s had a string of forecast results which read: 5-4, 4-6, 4-6, 5-6, 5-6, 4-6, 6-5.

Six days later the Monmore winners (once again through the card) came from: 1-2-2-1-2-1-2-2-3-2-4-3-2-1.

Skelton Salty

If only horse racing was so easy. It is not easy as we know but, as Dan Skelton the young British trainer who has been on a sky-rocket trajectory for the past five seasons, will tell you, it is a little easier in Ireland.

Speaking on Nick Luck’s racing podcast about Willie Mullins domination in Ireland and his stunning results at last weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival where most Mullins’ Grade 1 and Grade 2 winners scored effortlessly without any real competition Skelton said:

“It is frustrating watching it. The lack of resistance means you are getting prep races in Grade Ones that aren’t taking anything out of his horses. That is the thing that makes him difficult to beat at Cheltenham, that his prep is easier than everybody else because his horses don’t have to go into the red in their prep races.

“That is why I think some races outside of Cheltenham Festival aren’t as supported as they should be because they (trainers and connections) know they are going to get a hard race. If they have a hard race, it’s going to be harder to get over. When Willie has a horse in a race he’s basically getting a freebie around the track in Ireland.”

He concluded: “I actually think preparation makes champions. The less you take out of the tank, the more is in there when you need it.”

Mullins Mardy

It is a fact Willie Mullins is responsible for the ante-post favourites in half of the Festival’s 28 races and with the Gordon Elliott runners running so poorly during the past two months, most have had simple Cheltenham preps starting at very short prices and winning easily.

Those comments, later relayed on the Racing TV website and Twitter feed, did not go down well in many Irish quarters. Tony Mullins, Willies brother who was the original trainer of Festival Bumper favourite Kilcruit, said on his Twitter feed: “You should come over and try it Dan. Many have and most failed”.

His comment received over 1,000 ‘likes’. But many believed Skelton’s sentiments to be true and in clarifying his comments via his sponsor’s (Ladbrokes) blog he has gained a lot of support.

Race Switch Kind to Allmankind

If tough domestic Cheltenham prep races are not enough to contend with one of Dan Skelton’s leading Festival hopes, Allmankind, who is third favourite for the Arkle Chase is amongst those that was due to race at Warwick (in the Agetur UK Kingmaker Chase) on Saturday.

Thankfully that race will only be delayed by two days and it is now scheduled for Monday.

Grand National Weights

Less than 24 hours later the weights for the Grand National will be announced (11.30am Tuesday).

Here Dan Skelton has just one entry, Blaklion (66/1 with bet365*). The formerly classy horse, a Becher Chase winner in 2017 is now 12 years-old and has raced just once in two years. Meanwhile Willie Mullins has nine entered.

* Horse racing betting odds correct at the time of writing.