The first day of the prestigious November Meeting at Cheltenham has been wiped out due to severe waterlogging on the course.
There will be no racing at the track on Friday then, with organisers nervously eyeing the forecasts for further updates as any further rainfall could surely threaten Saturday’s card too, which features the BetVictor Gold Cup.
Assuming that the rain stops anytime soon, there will be an inspection of the course at 3pm on Friday, with the hope that conditions have dried suitably to allow the weekend’s racing to proceed as planned.
Friday’s postponement came a full two hours before today’s scheduled inspection, such was the comprehensive nature of the rain that has left parts of the Cheltenham track under water.
That left clerk of the course, Simon Claisse, with no option but to pull the plug on tomorrow’s card, with standing water threatening the safety on the horses and jockeys involved.
“Over the past 18 hours we have had nearly 37mm of rainfall, and the course is flooded in areas,” Claissie confirmed. “As such, we have had to regrettably abandon racing on Friday.
“We hope for more positive news tomorrow afternoon after the inspection.”
The decision has been taken to reschedule two of Friday’s planned races, with the original prize kitty remaining intact. The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle will open up Saturday’s proceedings, weather permitting, at 12:05 GMT, while the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase will now take place on Sunday at 13:15 GMT, with the Conditional Jockeys’’ Handicap shuffling forward to open the card earlier on.
|12:40||Markel Insurance Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase||Cancelled|
|1:15||Valda Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle||Cancelled|
|1:50||BetVictor Handicap Chase||Cancelled|
|2:25||Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase||Cancelled|
|3:00||Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase||Rescheduled – Sunday 1:15|
|3:35||Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle||Rescheduled – Saturday 12:05|
Paul Jackson, the head of racing at the BHA, said:
“It’s obviously very disappointing to lose a day’s action at Cheltenham, but we are pleased to be able to save these two important races.”
The last time that the famous track was besieged by precipitation to the extent that an abandonment was the only course of action was New Year’s Day 2013. That was an occasion memorable for all the wrong reasons, as Channel 4 – as part of their debut broadcast with a brand new presenting team – were forced to decamp to a stable and talk horses in-between syndicated action from Musselburgh.
Going for Gold
The good news is that aside from a bit more on Friday, the weather should clear up in time for the weekend: hopefully, the course team and the super-expensive drainage in place at Cheltenham can work their magic.
Because it would be a shame if the BetVictor Gold Cup, in particular, is unable to go ahead.
That’s shaping up to be a cracking renewal, with the current bookies’ favourite, Slate House, a winner of a Class 2 outing on this track last month, locking horns with a 20-strong field that also includes Siruh Du Lac, winner of the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival back in March.
Others of note include Saint Calvados, Us and Them and Guitar Pete, who was travelling well in this race 12 months ago before settling for third. The 2017 champion, Splash of Ginge, also returns for another bite of the cherry.
Despite the softening of the ground, there haven’t been any major withdrawals as yet with only Knocknanuss and Casablanca Mix on the non-runners list.
The reigning champion, Baron Alco, misses out with injury, while the horse he beat into second a year ago – Frodon – has gone on to enjoy a fine year with saw victories in both the Cotswold Chase and Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.