Epsom soil has been described as good on Sunday after several days of drying – but race director Andrew Cooper is wary of an uncertain forecast of possible downpours closer to Cazoo Derby day.
If there was no more rain, before the two-day flagship meeting began on Friday, Cooper would anticipate the need for a little watering.
But the updated weather forecast from Wednesday threw plans in the air.
“We’ve been dry – the last rain we saw at Epsom was Monday night of last week,” Cooper said.
“Temperatures have risen a bit over that time – (but) I don’t think we’ve ever been warmer than around 22 degrees (again).
“We have dried up, like anywhere, and if we were to run today I would say it’s good.
“It produced a GoingStick reading of 7.1 – which I think is historically good ground at Epsom.”
The weather had appeared largely fine for another week, but showers appeared on the horizon.
“There is uncertainty about the forecast for the entire week – particularly from Wednesday,” Cooper added.
“Looks like there’s no confidence at all talking to meteorologists. I don’t think they’re quite sure what’s going to happen, how widespread the downpours are going to be at the end of this. the week, which part of the country.
“It is unnecessary uncertainty.
“Starting this weekend you would have said it looked pretty settled – but that’s what happens, with the weather. We accept that, we’ve seen it before – it’s really kind of. unnecessary forecasting.
“You would much prefer to know that you are going to see some or no rain at all – in which case you are in control of things a lot more.”
When asked if the watering would be in order if the drought continued, Cooper said: “The answer is probably yes – but when it will, what volume, etc., it is impossible to say for. the moment.
“We’re definitely not going to do anything right now. We’ll just sit there, check in early tomorrow, start over, look at the latest forecast and make a little plan for the future.
“My guiding principle is that there are parts of the course at Epsom that you water the night before, but (other) parts that I would like to give 48 hours.
“One of the 48 hour parts of the course would be the downhill section – anything from the six pole (furlong) to the road crossing the straight, experience has taught us that you water this late. At your peril.
“It’s not working out quite the way you would like it to be.
“So for the races on Friday, that would take us back to Wednesday.”
Epsom will aim for a range that is no faster than good to firm.
Cooper added, “If you have a drying day, wherever you are at seven o’clock on Saturday morning, it will be something very different at 4:30 pm this afternoon.
“I’ve always said our preparations are really aimed at making sure we don’t run the Derby on faster than good ground on firm ground – keeping in mind this is the fifth race of seven at 4.30am on the second day of a two-day meeting.
“What we need to determine is which terrain we should aim for on Friday – as a starting point you wouldn’t want to start running on faster than good terrain on firm ground. That would only create problems for Saturday. .
“So given the uncertainty of a rain forecast, the decision we have over the next 48 hours, is what we need to do – if anything – to make sure Friday is on safe, reasonable ground. and appropriate.
“That doesn’t mean it has to be good, doesn’t mean it has to be on the slow side of good – it just means that whatever is in between good and good to be firmed up is (good).”
The early June weather should test Cooper a bit this year, but it’s an occupational risk he’s used to.
“This kind of forecasting poses questions to us – but we’ve been there before,” he said.
“It’s not an unprecedented weather situation. Some years are very simple – but like any race meeting you have to work with the weather and you are really at the mercy of it.
“Our overriding goal will be to hope to produce safe and consistent surfaces where horses can perform to the best of their ability.”
Off the course, Cooper reports that Epsom is all dressed up to once again accommodate an authorized crowd of up to 4,000 on Friday and Saturday – and he’s confident both Classics and the Coronation Cup will live up to the challenge as well.
He said: “Overall things are going very well at the racetrack – we are looking forward to welcoming quite a number of crowds on Derby day, following the very surreal one last year.
“There’s a lot of activity (going on) – because a lot of things on the hill are happening later in the day, it almost looks like a normal Derby right now.
“With the reception marquees and other temporary structures that are (already) in use there, it almost seems more normal than it will be.
“The crowd on the hill and the outdoor enclosures will always be the big thing that we’ll miss – but that’s just the way we need to go for now.
“I think the races are going very well (too).
“It sounds like a fascinating Derby, the Oaks and even the Coronation Cup – I think they all look like really good races to me at this point.”