LOCAL trainers understandably had very few runners last week.

While recent conditions may have been the worst in many people’s memory, only one day was completely devoid of racing and those of a certain age will remember the infamous winter of 1962/63, one of the harshest on record.

This week, 55 years ago, we were emerging from it. The race meeting at Newbury on 8 March 1963 was the first in England or Wales since 22 December. There were three blank days scheduled leading up to Christmas Day, but when snow started falling on Boxing Day nobody could have foreseen that there would be 75 days with no racing, apart from one meeting at Ayr on 5 January.

Captain Ryan Price trained the first winner the day racing resumed at Newbury. Coincidentally, he had saddled the last one before the break, at Fontwell. Price, an ex-Commando, was a very canny operator who masterminded some great coups. He trained the winner of the only Welsh Grand National to be run at Caerleon, Bora’s Cottage in March 1948. Price’s stable jockey for many years, Fred Winter, was champion four times and once he retired from the saddle won the trainers’ championship eight times.

Caerleon – also known as Newport – races had a chequered existence from its first meeting in 1845. After 1854 a gap of about 30 years ensued before racing was revived. It struggled by with one or two two-day meetings a year but managed to get agreement to eleven days in the 1946/47 season, as a number of other courses were unable to reopen after the war. Unfortunately most of them were abandoned due to a wretched winter that was just as severe as that of 1962/63.

One fixture that did survive was on the last day of the National Hunt season, 14 June 1947. Dick Francis was riding, a week before his marriage, but a fall left him with a broken collarbone and all the wedding photographs show him wearing a sling.

Caerleon only lasted another seven weeks after that Welsh National. Its owners could not make it pay. There is no longer any trace of the track, which was situated by the Usk. It is now a golf course and a school.

At that Newbury meeting in 1963 every single favourite lost, which wasn’t too surprising as few trainers would have had undercover facilities to keep horses fit. In 2018 the Beast from the East didn’t last long enough to make a great deal of difference to horses’ fitness.

Saturday’s big race is the Imperial Cup at Sandown. Evan Williams’ Silver Streak, who won with startling ease at Chepstow in October, is near the head of the market at 10/1. He’s been lightly raced since and it’s interesting that he’s entered here rather than in any races at Cheltenham.