Wincanton open to Kingwell rescue but battered Exeter loses big fixture again

Wincanton, which lost one of its premier prizes following the cancellation of Saturday's Betway Kingwell Hurdle meeting, is open to the idea of the Grade 2 race being staged elsewhere.

The Somerset track was hammered by Storm Dennis on Friday night and the resulting strong winds left officials with little choice.

Clerk of the course Daniel Cooper, suffering the twin blow having also had to cancel Exeter's fixture on Sunday, said: "We're desperately frustrated. I'm not sure how the rest of the country is faring, but we've had 35 alerts from our on-site station at Wincanton that gusts have exceeded 35mph.

"It's set at 35mph because that's the trigger point for us to conduct a stewards' inquiry, so there's enough evidence on that alone for me to have said it was the right call on Saturday morning.

"We've got a beautiful racetrack with a furlong section that is waterlogged and we need to focus our attention on that and make sure it doesn't become a long-term issue."

Of saving the Kingwell – a recognised Unibet Champion Hurdle trial (Katchit was the last horse to win both in the same season) – Cooper added: "We've said to the BHA this morning we'd support the race being restaged in the next few days and our involvement is as much as that as I don't think it would necessarily be a Wincanton rescheduling, but an industry one.

"We'd gladly let that take its course and I believe there's a meeting on Saturday regarding that, with a Monday announcement."

The BHA on Friday had indicated that would be the process, saying in a statement: "Ahead of an unsettled forecast this weekend preparations are ongoing in case key races and opportunities are lost.

"On this basis we will review options on Sunday in conjunction with racecourses, trainers and the Levy Board to see what should and can feasibly be restaged. We are mindful that some races may be important opportunities in relation to major spring targets and will factor this into the decision-making process.

"Should additional races or fixtures be considered necessary we will aim to communicate this at the earliest time possible on Monday."

Exeter had been due to race last Sunday, but Storm Ciara claimed that and it was repositioned to this Sunday, but Cooper endured the double whammy of losing that and Wincanton.

Speaking on Saturday afternoon from Exeter, he said: "We've got a track that is nigh-on 70 per cent waterlogged and, after being okay this morning, we've had more than 30mm of rain, so that's 35mm in the last 12 hours.

"We are in no way able to improve overnight I'm afraid. There is also multiple damage to our wings, which isn't repairable. We're going to have to buy new wings as they've sheared and cracked and blown plastic everywhere.

"We're in a bad way today, but we'll do everything in our power for our next fixture on Friday."

Exeter's card was one of its best in the calendar and two Listed races were due to take place.

"With the spring festivals looming I don't think there are many other options to reschedule, this was the option," Cooper continued. "This Sunday was the one offered, but that isn't my decision, it's one for the BHA." 

Jumping in Britain on Sunday could be wiped out if Market Rasen does not pass a 7am inspection.

The going there is described as soft, good to soft in places, but it is not just the surface clerk Jack Pryor has to contend with.

"We're continuing to monitor the forecast," he said at Saturday lunchtime. "We're due to be hit worst this afternoon and into the early hours of tomorrow morning, so we'll assess things first thing and will hopefully be able to make a decision nice and early. There is some concern around wind and rain though. We've got to make sure the public areas and the course are safe, so we'll take a general view of all of it."

Carlisle stages an all-hurdle card on Monday because the chase circuit is waterlogged.

Kirkland Tellwright, who oversees the Cumbrian circuit, said on Saturday: "We've got in front of the game by admitting the chase course is unfit and dividing up one or two hurdle races.

"The hurdle track is in a marginally better state than the chase course. Today's weather is brutal, but I'd be disappointed if by Monday, having had Sunday to settle down, it was unfit."