Punters might find it hard going with several handicaps to ponder but horses will experience the opposite when Salisbury opens its door for the start of the new racing season on Thursday.

Such is the course's popularity with owners and trainers that nearly 80 horses have been declared to run on soft going with the long-distance handicap being divided to produce an eight-race programme that opens at 1.40.

With the cold and above-average rainfall blighting Spring, it has naturally been an arduous task for the ground staff to get the track in pristine condition, a complete reversal of 2022.

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"Remember last year, it was fine early on," said course supremo Jeremy Martin in an exclusive interview with the Journal today to discuss prospects. "This year we got onto the course to mow it three or four weeks later. We will have it mown once more either this afternoon or tomorrow morning."

Expressing his admiration, he reflected: "Last year they were runners-up to York in the flat category in the groundsmen's awards. We were very pleased with that. They are an experienced team and do their very best to produce the best ground possible."

And on another positive note, Martin reported the course is putting up about £1.37 million in prize money, an increase of £75,000. "We have upped our game across the board. A lot of racecourses have been trying their best to find extra money in these challenging times and we are also trying to do our best to make our race values as competitive as possible."

As normal, the two major races at the two-day August fixture carry the highest individual pots, the one-mile Group 3 Sovereign Stakes, which is confined to colts and geldings, and the listed Upavon Stakes, contested by mares and fillies and run over 10 furlongs. The former is worth £70,000 and the latter £50,000. The meeting is also boosted by the addition of a £50,000 handicap for fillies.

The other major races for the season are the six-furlong Cathedral Stakes in June and the Dick Poole Filles Stakes in September with prize money of £50,000 and £45,000 respectively.

Racegoers will not see much change in facilities but improvements over the winter have been carried out in the stable yard.