Saturday’s meeting at Ayr featuring the £200,000 William Hill Ayr Gold Cup was cancelled on Friday morning because of a waterlogged patch of ground on the home straight.
Both Thursday and Friday’s cards had already been called off for the same reason, and, after a midday inspection was brought forward, it was announced that the entire three-day Western meeting would have to be cancelled.
The course has had no rain since 15mm fell on Wednesday evening into Thursday morning. But a strip of ground stretching halfway across the straight has failed to dry out. With 6mm of rain forecast later on Friday, the meeting was called off on safety grounds.
Investigations are now under way to establish whether there is an underlying issue on the home straight.
Ayr clerk of the course Graeme Anderson said on Friday: “I walked the track this morning with the course inspector Chris Dennis and PJ McDonald and it’s not going to improve.
“The rest of the track took the rain no bother but there is a patch of false ground that is still waterlogged. We got the surface water off, that’s been no problem, but it’s left an area of false ground with muddy patches.
“It’s mud and it’s false and for horses coming at that speed it’s a total safety decision. It’s not safe to go over it.”
The affected area is two and a half furlongs up the home straight and stretches from the stand rail to the centre of the track.
Anderson said on Friday: “We walk the track every day and before the meeting it was perfect. There was no sign of a problem. It was raceable on Wednesday but by Thursday morning the area was absolutely sodden, standing water.
“It was a drying day on Thursday with no rain but there was no significant difference to it. We looked at it again this morning and it’s still moving underfoot. It’s soggy but there’s mud there. It’s squelching. It’s not going to improve and there’s more rain coming today, another 6mm.
“It’s about two or three metres by 12 metres. If it was by the rail we would move the rail to get past it. But it runs through the centre of the course, so there’s no way around about it.“
The loss of the meeting and its landmark Flat race is a massive blow to the course with £700,000 on offer in prize-money over three days.
Anderson said: “It’s pointing at an underlying problem where the water is not being let away. For that much to be caused by 15mm of rain, there has to be an issue.
“We had a dig either side of the track yesterday but couldn’t see anything jumping out at us that was causing it. So we’ll get scanning people in and investigate.
“You prepare all year for this meeting. You save ground and everything else. We were set up for racing on Wednesday and then this happens. It’s devastating. A nightmare.”
On Thursday trainer Tim Easterby said the waterlogging had been caused by a ‘drain bubbling up’.
In June last year Ayr was forced to abandon two sprint races at its meeting due to remedial work to repair a collapsed drain on the straight course.