Epsom’s long-serving clerk of the course Andrew Cooper will continue to irrigate the track ahead of next weekend’s Cazoo-sponsored Derby and Oaks, after another dry day at the Surrey track.
With little rain forecast over the next few days, Cooper and his team are bidding to maintain the current conditions following a challenging spring.
On Friday, Cooper said: “In terms of the ground, I walked the course this afternoon and the official going is good, good to firm in places. The vast majority would be good ground.
“It is a lovely sunny, but not particularly hot, day at Epsom, around 20C.
“At the start of the week when the horses spun around here, we were on the slow side of good and for various reasons we have not done a lot with it ourselves in the meantime.
“We have done a watering cycle of about 5mm everywhere today, as I thought it had just got to that stage where we need something. It looks a dry weekend and this place gets away from you very quickly if you don’t do something.”
There is no meaningful rain in the forecast prior to the Derby, so the ground staff will continue to irrigate over the next few days.
Copper added: “It has been a tough spring. The key thing is rainfall levels have been well below where you would have expected them to be, certainly through April and May.
“In April we measured 15mm and in May we are up to about 20mm, but they have been very spaced out and not very big amounts.
“The most rain we have seen in the last two months was last Friday when we had seven millimetres, but you have not had any of those completely washed-out weekends.
“Irrigation has been pretty constant since the start of April. Whatever it is now, the key thing is what next week holds and there does not seem to be any sign of rain over the weekend and there are a few mixed messages starting to creep in about next week.
“I think a lot of computer models are throwing up some different scenarios, particularly at the end of the week, but you are certainly not looking at desperately hot temperatures.
“I think there might be some bits and pieces of rain, but there is no confidence in that at all.
“When you are in that situation, you just have to review it each day and not over-do it in each direction. You can’t go too far wrong by just keeping on top of it.
“On a dry day, at this time of year, a track will lose 2mm of moisture. It will be more than that if you get sunshine and breeze, but the plant is taking up so much moisture and with evaporation it means that if you had a magic system where you can put on 2mm of irrigation or rain each night, you would broadly stand still.
“If you get a hot, warm, breezy day, that can shoot up to about 4mm lost.”
Despite the lack of rain, Cooper has been delighted with the covering of grass at Epsom.
“The positives are that the track is in very good shape,” he added. “The grass cover is excellent, its feed regime has worked well, but there has been a lot of irrigation to get it to the stage we are.
“On the forecast as a whole, I can’t see us putting off irrigation from some point next week, certainly not in the early part of the week.
“There might come a point where we feel there has been enough, or there is some indication of rain, towards the latter part of the week, but I haven’t got any great confidence in that at the moment.
“The onus is on us to keep it in a healthy position where the ground is somewhere perhaps no quicker than the fast side of good, and no slower than good.”