Ayr's Flat season got off to a controversial start yesterday when the meeting was abandoned before a race had been run, after jockeys walking the course discovered a false patch of ground. As a result of a futile trip to the west coast of Scotland, numerous owners, trainers and jockeys ended the day substantially out of pocket.
Sandown Park later became the second casualty of the day - the evening meeting there was abandoned after three races because of a slippery home bend.
The problem at Ayr related to a patch of ground at the three-furlong marker which had been drained last November. It was spotted by jockey's northern safety officer Dale Gibson when he walked the course at midday. He had travelled up from Yorkshire for one ride.
Groundsmen tried to rectify the problem by applying Fibresand. But after an inspection, and hearing the views of trainers and jockeys - who gave them a split decision - the stewards finally cancelled the meeting 20 minutes after the first race was due to be run when the racecourse vet expressed reservations.
Gibson said: "A lot of apprentices due to ride in the second-last spent £150 on a flight up from Newmarket and I know one owner who has spent £800 getting his runner there. Jockeys love riding at Ayr because it's such a fair course and because it's good for horses, but today it wouldn't have been good for horses."
Clerk of the course Katherine Self confirmed the course had passed its annual inspection last week and she was sticking to her guns. "My feeling was that, at all times, it was safe," she said. She is confident the problem can be resolved by today week when the course is due to race again.
Trainer Jim Goldie was happy enough to work three of his runners up the straight after the abandonment.
"We stood down there and it was fine," he said. "It walked a lot softer than it rode. It's been a slow growing-year and because it has been so hot in the last week, they had to water. But whereas established turf evaporates most of what has been put on it, the new grass doesn't and so it got progressively softer. Trying to fix it made it worse."
At Sandown, several jockeys expressed unease at the slippery nature of the bend turning for home, after which an inspection was staged. Despite sand being placed on the affected area, the decision was taken to abandon.
Sandown director of racing, Andrew Cooper, said: "I'm surprised at the turn of events. The home bend is a tight bend and we take a lot of care about how we prepare it. I should think it would prove to be a combination of factors - mainly climatic.
"I've got confidence in myself and the team here that this will be a one-off."
Sandown will offer race-goers a 50 per cent refund.
Source : Racing News