Column – International Affairs, by PATRICK DAVIS


<p>Wet summer plays havoc with UK racing</p>

<p>THE seemingly unending rain that has bombarded many areas of the UK has taken its toll on the racing industry with no fewer than 28 race meetings being abandoned due to waterlogged surfaces since 1 June – and this during the heart of summer!</p>
<p>The tracks worst hit have been the popular summer jumping venue Worcester (which resembles more a lake than a racecourse after the River Severn burst its banks), dual-purpose track Southwell (which stages all-weather racing on a fibre-sand surface as well as jumping on turf) and jumping-only venue Stratford (which is also under a lake of water after the River Avon burst its banks).</p>
<p>Worcester has had to abandon its last five scheduled meetings and this will probably become six as the water is unlikely to subside in time for its next meeting on 31 July. Southwell is reportedly facing a bill of up to &pound;10 million to repair the extensive damage to its buildings and track.</p>
<p>Cheltenham Racecourse, thankfully not due to race until October, was reported to be under 12 feet of water in places following heavy rain last week. Managing director Edward Gillespie said last Saturday: “We had five inches of rain from Thursday midnight to 3pm yesterday (Friday). Simon Claisse (the clerk of the course) described it as a swathe of water, a 40m flood, across the middle of the racecourse. Where the courses cross about two fences out, we were 12 feet deep in water and we lost the woodchip canter for the second time this summer.&rsquo;&rsquo;</p>
<p>Other tracks to suffer significantly have been Haydock Park (with four abandonments in recent weeks) and Newbury, which lost meetings on Friday and Saturday last week.</p>
<p>* * *</p>
<p>Ascot, which hosts Saturday&rsquo;s &pound;750 000 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Group 1), looks set to beat the weather despite recording 50mm (more than two inches) of rain last Friday morning.</p>
<p>The going is currently good to soft on the new straight course, but soft/heavy in places on the round course. With the forecasters predicting some respite from the torrential rain as the week progresses, Ascot clerk of course Chris Stickels anticipates that the ground will dry out ahead of the big meeting.</p>
<p>From a racing point of view, this year&rsquo;s King George was dealt a second blow on Monday, when it was revealed that runaway Irish Derby winner Soldier of Fortune would join Epsom Derby winner Authorized in giving the mid-summer showpiece a miss.</p>
<p>Aidan O&rsquo;Brien&rsquo;s colt was ruled out in favour of a rest and is likely to be aimed at the Doncaster St Leger on 15 September instead.</p>
<p>Connections of runaway Epsom hero Authorized, who had a hard race when beaten in the Eclipse, had already taken the decision to rest their colt ahead of an autumn campaign that includes the Juddmonte International at York en route to the Arc.</p>
<p>The defection of the two leading middle-distance three-year-olds has left the King George looking decidedly substandard again with only eight horses standing their ground at Monday&rsquo;s six-day confirmation stage.</p>
<p>Despite Soldier of Fortune&rsquo;s defection, O&rsquo;Brien still appears to hold the trump cards courtesy of red-hot favourite Dylan Thomas and second favourite Scorpion.</p>
<p>Johnny Murtagh, who won the Irish Oaks aboard Peeping Fawn for Ballydoyle 10 days ago, has been called up for the ride on Dylan Thomas in the absence of Christophe Soumillon (who is serving a ban), Seamus Heffernan (who is required at Leopardstown) and Kieren Fallon (who is still unable to ride in Britain due to impending corruption charges).</p>
<p>Dylan Thomas was narrowly beaten by subsequent Eclipse winner Notnowcato in the Tattersalls Gold Cup before finding only French raider Manduro too good in the Prince of Wales&rsquo;s Stakes at Royal Ascot. While he will not want the ground too testing, Dylan Thomas is a worthy 10-11 favourite for Saturday&rsquo;s race.</p>
<p>Mick Kinane will keep the ride on second favourite Scorpion, who he partnered to victory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom before going down narrowly to Maraahel in the Hardwicke Stakes over the King George course and distance last time out.</p>
<p>Sir Michael Stoute&rsquo;s Maraahel is third favourite but has yet to win at the highest level despite coming close on a number of occasions. Regular pilot Richard Hills will partner him.</p>
<p>The only other runner quoted in single figures is Mick Channon&rsquo;s Youmzain, conqueror of subsequent Breeders&rsquo; Cup Turf winner Red Rocks in last season&rsquo;s Great Voltigeur Stakes and winner of the IVG Preis von Europa at Cologne in Germany.</p>
<p>Also in the line-up is Godolphin&rsquo;s Laverock, a dual Group 1 winner in France last year but who disappointed in Dubai earlier this year. He did, however, run an improved race when dead heating for second behind Papal Bull in the Princess of Wales&rsquo;s Stakes at Newmarket last time out.</p>
<p>Making up the field of eight are “people&rsquo;s horse&rsquo;&rsquo; Sergeant Cecil, German raider Prince Flori and the only three-year-old, O&rsquo;Brien&rsquo;s Yellowstone, who finished a creditable fourth in the Eclipse last time out.</p>

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