Horse Racing: Musselburgh slow to act amid gales

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Musselburgh officials failed to cover themselves in glory yesterday when gale force winds forced abandonment after just one race.

With jockeys – including champion Paul Hanagan – describing conditions as horrendous after Just Lille had won the opener at 2.20, it took more than an hour before the meeting was officially abandoned.

After the first race and with winds in excess of 30mph an inspection was called and a deputation of jockeys, trainers and officials walked down the home straight.

Hanagan had reported that conditions were extremely bad as the field turned out of the back stretch and headed for home, while Adrian Nicholls had only one word for it – horrendous.

But after a conflab amongst stewards and officials, stipendiary steward Adie Smith announced : “We have decided to give it every chance and will inspect again at 3.20 (half an hour later) even though it is forecast to get worse.”

So everyone was kept waiting before the same deputation marched only as far as the furlong pole – this time with winds approaching 50 mph. To most onlookers it was a no-brainer.

Yorkshire trainer Nigel Tinker declared it to be downright dangerous and Dandy Nicholls swiftly withdrew all his horses from the rest of the card, while we were treated to scenes of bookmakers dismantling their pitches; horses walking away from the parade ring and back to the stables and jockeys in civvies heading for the car park before the official announcement of abandonment came.

And then to rub salt into the wounds of those members of the public who had paid £16 entrance fee on a dreadful day, it was announced that they would get only a 50 per cent refund.

Shame on you Musselburgh; for keeping folk – many with long journeys home ahead of them – hanging about for almost an hour; for even contemplating continuing when conditions were plainly deteriorating by the minute; and for not having the nous to put the extra race on the card at the front when they weather men had been telling everyone since Saturday that conditions on Monday would only get worse as the day wore on.