The ongoing debacle of small fields in horse racing continues at pace, with a renewal on Ripon’s flagship Saturday card cancelled due to a lack of runners. The Silver Trophy is a consolation race run in conjunction with the Great St. Wilfrid Handicap, with overflow entries from the latter funnelling into the former.
But with only 15 runners declared for the Great St. Wilfrid, the two entrants left in the Silver Trophy – Embour and Mark’s Choice – have been scratched and added to the field for the Class 2 handicap instead. It continues the trend for small field sizes in both Flat and National Hunt racing, and raises fears once again for the long-term viability for the sport in an age where reduced prize money is making it harder to convince trainers to travel.
The Silver Trophy, a race which is now a decade old, offers a purse of £25,000, and ordinarily attracts a sizeable field – all but one edition have seen 19 horses take to the start line. But, the current economic squeeze – allied to excessively-hot temperatures in Yorkshire – has ultimately persuaded many to stay at home.
Clerk of the course at Ripon, James Hutchinson, described the situation as ‘a shame’, and hoped that things would return to normal in time for the 2023 meeting. He said:
Along with a full field last year, the race [Silver Trophy] has proved very popular in the past and there used to be plenty left over. Unfortunately it’s not the case this year, but it’s a good-value race for those horses rated between 70 and 90.
Hot Under the Collar
The extreme temperatures blighting much of the UK have clearly had a knock-on effect to racing, with some yards refusing to travel or at least lightening their squads. Temperatures reached in excess of 40˚C back in July, and still-sizzling highs of 35˚C are expected in parts of England this weekend.
Five meetings were abandoned during July’s heatwave, and although the BHA has not revealed any plans for further cancellations this time around, course officials will still be keeping a very close eye on their thermometers.
The sport’s governing body has published a number of tweets explaining how the welfare of horses is maintained during the heat, with ice buckets and cooling blankets used to regulate their temperature before and after a race.
During periods of raised temperatures,racecourses will measure ambient temperatures regularly in stables, pre-parade ring, parade ring & winners enclosure, monitoring the situation on a race by race basis.
Veterinary Officer Sally Taylor on how horses are kept cool & comfortable: pic.twitter.com/TB8othcruw
— British Horseracing Authority (@BHAHorseracing) August 11, 2022
Some believe that racing in extreme heat is cruel, and in July a protest was held at Newton Abbot racecourse in Devon in a bid to get officials to call off the day’s card. To ensure the ground is fit for racing, course chiefs are undertaking a mass watering programme in order to keep the going on the right side of firm. But even so, the fast conditions won’t suit all – hence the low-field sizes that such extreme weather tends to promote.