Ireland’s first Grade One race of 2021 will be run at Naas on Wednesday if the track fails a 1.30pm inspection on Saturday afternoon.
The €80,000 Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle is the centrepiece of a programme scheduled for Sunday but which officials admit is “very unlikely” to take place due to freezing weather conditions.
Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has moved quickly to ensure the Grade One Naas programme can get run off as quickly as possible if it can’t go ahead as planned.
“I think it is good to get the Grade One run sooner rather than later before the Dublin Racing Festival [February 6th-7th],” said Naas racecourse manager Eamonn McEvoy on Friday.
“There is also a novice chase that’s a graded race in all but name and three or four of those are probably going to the Dublin weekend as well. So, it’s important we run it.”
McEvoy is not holding out much hope that racing can go ahead on Sunday with freezing temperatures forecast overnight and Saturday night.
“If mother nature plays ball then great but it looks very unlikely at this stage. We have had a very hard week of frosts and it’s well in the ground now. Tonight is going to be the coldest night by the looks of it and Saturday night will be cold too. So we’re under pressure. There’s no point saying we’re not,” McEvoy said.
“At least in the current climate we don’t have to ring 300 people to cancel dinners on Sunday morning,” he added.
Forced to cancel just after Christmas due to waterlogging, Chepstow officials examined the track on Friday and announced an 8am inspection on Saturday morning.
Kempton’s card on Saturday, featuring the Lanzarote Hurdle, will also have to pass an 8am inspection due to a threat from snow showers and frost.
The Evan Williams-trained Secret Reprieve continues to be clear favourite for the Welsh National.
He is one of 18 runners in the marathon event which sees the Bryony Frost ridden Yala Enki top the weights.
Co Cork jockey Gavin Sheehan teams up with trainer Oliver Sherwood for Dominateur in the big race.
Dominateur won both his previous starts over fences at Chepstow and warmed up for the endurance test with a third to Pym at Sandown in November.