It is amazing what a difference the Downs make.

Racing has been hard hit by the current icy cold spell and trainers have been finding it tough.

But handlers south of the South Downs have found it easier to cope than those further inland.

The yard of Richard Rowe (Storrington) and Josh Gifford (Findon) are barely five miles apart.

But Rowe has struggled to keep his horses on the move, leaving it until mid-day to get out, while Josh has been followed his normal routine.

Rowe has been frustrated. He said: "We've had severe frosts the last three nights and I have been leaving it until the warmest time of day to get the horses out."

He has a wood-fibre gallop, often mis-named 'all weather', which was put down last summer.

Rowe said: "It has not yet absorbed a great deal of moisture because it's new but around midday we can easily break up any frost to make it usable.

"It's tough on the lads because it upsets their routine, yet everyone in this business knows that the horses come first."

Findon is south-west facing and only five miles from the sea. Gifford said: "We haven't missed a day. Where the ground is cut up and rough in the gateways we have put down shavings.

"We have a wood-chip and sand gallop, seven furlongs uphill and that has not frozen so we've been cantering and working as normal."

His horses normally trot round the village for 20 minutes before going onto the Downs but during the icy weather he has been avoiding the roads altogether.

He said: "There are more potential hazards on the roads than on the turf or the woodchip. Overall we have been lucky."

Meanwhile, with entries for the Martell Grand National closing in a couple of weeks, time is running out for either Gifford or his erstwhile jockey-turned-trainer Rowe to have a runner in the big race.

Gifford had banked on Chicago City to run in the Aldaniti-Brave Highlander colours of Nick and Valda Embericos, but last time out at Newbury the horse came back lame.

Gifford said: "He has cracked the pedal bone in one hind foot.

"It is not an uncommon injury but comparatively rare in a hind hoof and certainly not life-threatening.

"Chicago City has had a special shoe fitted and total recovery is just a question of time, but I doubt if he will run again this season."

With Lord Berniebouffant being trained specifically for the Scottish National at the end of April, with his owner living near Ayr, Gifford is relying on Glitter Isle to represent him at Aintree on April.

The trainer said: "He's the right age, the right type and I would love to run him at Aintree."

By contrast, Rowe's hopes of a National runner are minimal. Montroe, who stays forever and acts best on a flat track like Liverpool, has come down in the handicap and is unlikely to figure in the top 40, the maximum field for the National.

Rowe said: "I will hope to run him in the John Hughes Chase, once round the National course, on the Friday."

He revealed sad news of the other Aintree hopeful from his Ashleigh House Stables.

Gran Turismo is lucky to be alive after a bout of colic last week, which resulted in two feet of intestine being removed in a lengthy operation.

Rowe said: "I rode him in a piece of work myself and he had never worked better, but two hours later he was rolling round in his box with sweat pouring off him.

"He had obviously twisted his gut and was rushed off to the veterinary clinic.

"He's OK now and he will recover but who knows what the experience will take out of him."