Provision in place for course change to be made on Champions Day

Runners and riders pass the grandstand during British Champions Day (PA Archive)
16:38pm, Fri 02 Jul 2021
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A provision has been made to let officials switch to the inner track at Ascot on Qipco British Champions Day should the ground have heavy in the going description.

British Champions Series Limited, the British Horseracing Authority and Ascot have announced revised track plans for the races on the round course – which will remain the default track but the word heavy on the day of racing will mean a switch to the inner track.

That is a change to the current rule, which states that the inner course would only come into plan in an abandonment situation.

The inner course cannot be used as the default as to prepare it to be so (by summer watering) would risk compromising it for Champions Day and for the jumps season, where the risk of waterlogging would increase significantly.

Racegoers shelter from the rain during day four of this year's Royal Ascot (PA Wire)

Clerk of the course Chris Stickels will give the going on the outer course on the morning of racing as normal. If he gives “heavy” in the going description or indeed chooses not to do so in a marginal call, an independent panel will also assess the ground.

The panel will decide whether there is heavy anywhere on the outer course, which would trigger the switch.

The inner track was used for the fixture in 2019, but went ahead as planned last year despite conditions being very soft.

Nick Smith, director of racing and public affairs at Ascot, said: “Using the cambered outer course with wider bends is obviously the ideal on QBCD. However, following discussions with the BHA, there is agreement that racing on heavy ground, if it can be avoided, is best for the day as a whole.

“Importantly, we are not setting out to penalise horses that prefer cut in the ground, which more often than not will be the prevailing conditions in autumn. In all likelihood, when heavy is in the going description on the outer course, the inner course will still be predominantly soft.

“Given the potential sensitivity around a switch of surfaces in a marginal situation, Chris has recommended that an independent panel verifies his assessment on the day.”

The switch was made in 2019 and was a great success resulting in competitive racing

John Gosden – whose Palace Pier and Stradivarius were both beaten in the 2020 edition – said: “It is important that the executive are given the flexibility to switch to the inner course if it is heavy on the main outer course. The switch was made in 2019 and was a great success resulting in competitive racing.

“It should be noted that unlike the long summer days of June, mid-October does not present much in the way of drying conditions.”

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