Kauto Star date still on for Kempton
At this rate, Ruby Walsh will be back to claim the ride on Kauto Star before a thaw sets in.
The William Hill King George VI Chase was postponed for a second time yesterday, and Kauto Star must now wait until Saturday, January 15 to make his unprecedented bid for a fifth consecutive success in the sport's midwinter championship.
His regular jockey, recuperating from a broken leg, will have been more or less unique in his immunity to the communal sense of anti-climax.
The race has twice found sanctuary at Sandown Park over the past 15 years, from frost in 1995 and track renovation in 2005, but this time Kempton has managed to retain the biggest race in its calendar.
That seems especially fitting, given that the King George has become very much a “home game” for Kauto Star, whose relish for the place has taken him to the brink of history. And none, equally, will begrudge the course management and groundstaff, after all their endeavours over Christmas came to nothing.
Brian Clifford, clerk of the course, admitted defeat shortly before the scheduled 2pm inspection yesterday after the forecast had proved too optimistic. Overnight temperatures had reached -7C.
“And whereas we were forecast 1C and 2C during Sunday, it hasn't got above -2C and was still -5C in the middle of the morning,” Clifford explained.
“Not only are the protective covers still frozen to the grass, there is now frost in the ground because of the longevity of these frosts.
“We would have needed daytime temperatures to be above zero quite early, in order for the covers to be removed in time, and that just isn't going to happen.”
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Kauto Star, reassured the horse's fans that he would not be inconvenienced by a new date.
“It will be no problem at all,” he said.
“He has only had one run this season and if it's just another couple of weeks ticking over in his work, he'll be fine.
“Everyone's been disrupted, but we've just been getting them out later — most days from 12 o'clock until four. As regards work, they've missed absolutely nothing. They're all fit and ready to go.”
The big holiday focus will now be on Leopardstown, where they are anticipating an imminent thaw.
The track has been under 10 inches of snow, however, and the management are hoping to squeeze as much as possible into three or two days, starting either tomorrow or Wednesday.
Among the big names scheduled to appear at the meeting is Zaidpour, who has a rescheduled opportunity on Wednesday.
Hopes for a resumption of jump racing in Britain likewise depend on a thaw from the west.
There has not been any National Hunt racing on turf since December 16, but officials at the Carmarthenshire Ffos Las track are now “cautiously optimistic”.
Clerk of the course Tim Long said: “I'm not going to be making any rash predictions given the recent bitterly cold spell, but I am more hopeful today than I was 48 hours ago on Friday.
“Monday sees temperatures at 3C with more rain overnight. With a maximum daytime temperature of 7C forecast on Tuesday with no overnight frost previously, I am cautiously optimistic.”