The finale to the flat season in Britain is in danger due to the going at Doncaster after heavy rain fell over the Yorkshire track in recent days.

Clerk of the Course Roderick Duncan had in fact been optimistic of improving the going, but has now been forced to change going description at Town Moor from soft to heavy (soft in places) with more rain forecast between 6AM on Thursday and the same time on Friday.

An inspection has been called for 8AM on Friday morning to see if the meeting can be saved with the November Handicap the final big betting race of the turf season now in jeopardy.

Fixtures to be Shaken Up?

Call it global warming, call it bad luck. Whatever the reason, more and more fixtures at this time of year are either in danger of cancellation or are providing unsuitably testing going for flat horses and this could lead to a major debate opening up regarding making more use of the country’s excellent synthetic surfaces, especially at Newcastle.

For the third year in a row, Ascot was perceived to have failed to offer decent racing ground for Britain’s richest race day, Champions Day, with Newmarket still seen by many as a better option given the apparent fairer covering of grass there meaning the going, regardless of description, remains fair.

Only two weeks ago Doncaster lost one of its two Group 1 races, the Vertem Futurity Trophy, because of waterlogging with the race saved at the last minute and moved to one of the ARC Group’s other tracks, Newcastle. The race became the first Group 1 in Britain to be run on an artificial surface and was a great success, Kameko striding out to victory to put himself firmly on course for both the 2000 Guineas and the Derby next year.

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Newcastle the Logical Long-Term Venue for a Group 1 Race

How long Vertem remain the sponsor of this prestigious race, formerly the Racing Post Trophy, remains to be seen but it is interesting to note that company founder John Dance, owner of Laurens, is from Newcastle himself and is a big supporter of Gosforth Park.

While it’s true that the management at Newcastle really need to update facilities for racegoers, their surface remains one that is fully supported by major trainers from around the country with such illustrious names as Enable, Stradivarius, Without Parole and Headman having all gained their first wins on the tapeta track.

In the shape of the Futurity, the St Leger and the Sprint Cup, the north currently only has three Group 1 races away from York and it would be fascinating to see a top-level race shifted further up the country. The recently inaugurated Burradon Stakes at Newcastle’s Easter fixture, now a £100,000 Listed race, was won last year by Gronkowski who was set to contest the Kentucky Derby before injury and went on to finish second in the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Should that race be upgraded further, there is little doubt it would be very well supported. While runners in Britain don’t need a Group 1 race ahead of the classics based on their not being a points system required as in the States, many would take one in en route to a Guineas, a Derby or even more pertinently a Kentucky Derby.

Given how far north Newcastle is, that it doesn’t lose fixtures due to the weather and that its track is seen as one of the best and fairest in the country, any investment in the infrastructure would be welcomed there which could be a precursor to a major shake-up in the way pattern races are scheduled in Britain in the modern day.


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