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The Weekly Blog

Winter Sports

N.B. Racing at Kelso on Sunday 10th December has been abandoned due to frost.

I may have occasionally worried about the rain, but I never suffered from Chionophobia whilst managing race-meetings at Cartmel.

A rare condition, more prevalent among Clerks and Managers of winter jumps tracks, Chionophobia is the fear of snow – usually the prospect of getting buried beneath it, although the term can also be stretched to include the fear of racecourses getting blanketed in white stuff.

Not that it’s always a problem. The White Turf Meeting, which takes place in February at St Moritz, wouldn’t be able to take place at all without snow. While searching online for this year’s programme, I noticed that most of the races are described as Flat races – raising the prospect that they might be adventurous enough to stage a bit of jump racing too.

But it turns out to be better than that – instead of Steeplechasing they enjoy Skikjöring, which is a bit like Flat racing except the jockeys are towed along behind the horses on skis. I’d love to tell you more about the rules, but the only explanation I could find was written in German.

The Thinker’s Gold Cup

Occasionally it snows at British race-meetings too, most notably during the 1987 Cheltenham Gold Cup won by The Thinker – a race which spawned my favourite Injured jockeys Fund Christmas card. This season’s IJF Christmas cards will be available from the charity tea-room at Kelso races on Sunday – assuming that we don’t get too much in the way of snow ourselves.

Snow falls at an average speed of 3mph, about one tenth of the speed of a galloping horse, so it’s not the snow which actually causes a problem to horses like Shades of Midnight, our selection for the Paris Pike Novices Steeplechase. It’s the frost which creates a hard, slippery and unforgiving racing surface. The track at Kelso is in excellent condition; there is a good covering of grass which will help to mitigate against the risk of a heavy frost causing abandonment – although of course much depends on how low temperatures fall on Saturday night.

Given the current forecast, it seems likely that the track will be perfectly raceable on Saturday. The decision to hold a precautionary inspection for Sunday morning is therefore based on the weather forecast which predicts plunging temperatures on Saturday night. Anyone who’s planning to come racing should keep an eye on the Kelso Races website and social media channels. N.B. Racing at Kelso on Sunday 10th December has been abandoned due to frost.

And please stick to the official social media channels – don’t be tempted to stray to other sites containing more dubious content. According to research, the number of Google searches using words like ‘boobs’ and ‘bums’ peaks dramatically in late December – as do sales of condoms and the number of hits on dating websites. Sales of condoms, incidentally drop significantly in the days following Christmas, suggesting that you’re more likely to come racing with your partner on Sunday afternoon, but that you’ll probably include the kids when you visit the races on 29th December.

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