Cheltenham hopeful International meeting will go ahead as snow hits
Cheltenham is likely to be under a blanket of snow by Monday morning as winter whitened the Cotswolds at the weekend, although the track's two-day International meeting starting on Friday is not expected to be under threat.
In nearby Naunton, where clerk of the course Simon Claisse lives, close to trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, snow could be measured in inches, but it only started to settle on the racecourse from midday, with more expected overnight.
Although freezing temperatures are forecast for the beginning of the week, these should rise by midweek. Rain is forecast ahead of a cold weekend according to Claisse. "We had 12mm of rain overnight, which changed our ground from good to good to soft on all three courses," he said on Sunday.
"The snow didn't really start to settle until just after noon but if you were there now you would keep racing. The expectation though is that we may see further accumulations of snow this evening and be under a covering of snow by the morning.
"We had -4C yesterday morning on the track and it was still raceable. The vulnerable parts were covered, that's where the Old and New courses intersect, but we are on fresh ground for this meeting which is a big advantage.
"We haven't been on that track since May so the grass cover is better than frost covers in protecting the ground."
Claisse felt there was no reason to be concerned on the basis of the current forecast. He said: "The forecast is very cold with -3C or -4C for the next two nights, which may mean that any snow lying in the morning is slow to thaw.
"Midweek we are expecting further rain and temperatures to get back up to 6C or 7C. Then it gets colder again at the end of the week."
Claisse revealed he was subjected to an ordeal driving the 14 miles back to Naunton. He said: "At home we have nine or ten inches with a lot of impassable roads. It took me four hours to get back from the track this morning. It normally takes 25 minutes."
Snow claimed the only surviving Sunday British card when Huntingdon was called off and Monday's card at Musselburgh was abandoned with the track frozen. Southwell's all-weather meeting will have to pass an 8am inspection due to the risk of snow.
Other meetings could also be in jeopardy later in the week with snow lying on the course at Uttoxeter, which is due to race on Tuesday, and more forecast.
Wednesday's meetings are scheduled at Hexham, which is partially frozen, and Leicester, which is under two inches of snow. Warwick, where racing takes place on Thursday, reported several centimetres of snow on the course with possibly more to come. At Doncaster, which also races on Friday and Saturday, some filled areas were said to be frozen.