THE chances of a festive racecourse meeting look to be optimistic.
Jeannie Chantler, racecourse manager at Bangor-on-Dee, viewed the receding flood waters on the course earlier this week and said: 'We're disappointed to lose Wednesday's meeting but delighted to be putting on a Christmas Cracker fixture on December 23 and hope families will attend to enjoy our festivities.'
With colder, dry weather anticipated and no significant damage to the turf, the ground staff at Bangor-on-Dee are busy pumping water off the course.
Plans go ahead to stage the extra fixture transferred from Doncaster where the course is currently closed for extensive refurbishment.
In addition to a betdirect sponsored card, there will be a festive grotto area at Bangor-on-Dee with minced pies and mulled wine available for purchase. It is a betting certainty that Santa Claus will put in an early appearance, offering a range of racing related goods appealing to all family members.
'We are linking an afternoon's racing with Christmas entertainment and advance restaurant sales are going well, indicating the meeting is a popular choice to start festivities,' added Chantler.
Over recent weeks, Quattro, a rubber tiling surface has been laid in the pre-parade ring, the paddock and adjoining horse walkways.
Chantler explained: 'The new surface will create a safer environment for both the horses, their attendants and connections moving around in those areas.'
Looking ahead to 2007, Bangor-on-Dee will stage 15 days' racing, with additional fixtures on May 29 and December
29. There will again be two meetings between the flags on February 25 and April 1.
'We'd like to maintain this number of fixtures,' said Chantler. 'It gives a good spread of meetings, we avoid racing in January, which is a high-risk month. We're looking forward to growing the point-to-point side after a successful start last year.'
* Two popular local horses, Forest Gunner and Iris's Gift, have been retired in recent weeks. The grey Iris's Gift, a prolific winner who amassed £339,503 from his successes during his career, will return to his breeder Anne Crank of Tattenhall to enjoy his leisure.
Crank received a second successive award for the first British-bred horse to finish in the 2006 John Smith's Grand National from Aintree racecourse last month.
Forest Gunner, an Aintree specialist, recorded three victories at the course and notched up £161,016 in prize money.
'He was always called Bullet, he was a bit sharp,' recalled Reg Crank when referring to the young Forest Gunner.
Anne Crank said: 'Richard and Robert Bevis of Threapwood schooled him and got him jumping. He's a credit to them. 'He's the only horse John Gilsenan has ever owned. It was convenient for him to visit Gunner at Richard's yard - he did a good job with him.'
Trainer Richard Ford added: 'He's been a marvellous superstar in his own right giving Carrie a wonderful experience in the Grand National in 2005. He was great for the yard and all our staff. He was a treasure to have. He wasn't the easiest, but his problems were tremendous problems to have. John is the most wonderful owner.'