Conditions deemed ‘perfect’ for a memorable Festival

RACING conditions at Cheltenham are said to be perfect for this week’s four-day Festival, which gets underway tomorrow.

Improving weather means the going is described as good to soft, good in places on both Old and New Courses and good to soft in places on the cross-country course.
Officials stopped watering both courses last Thursday but it is anticipated that more may be applied to the New course for when it is used on the final two days with rain unlikely this week.

“The course is in good nick,'” said clerk of the course Simon Claisse. “The outlook remains pretty well dry now until Wednesday when we might get the odd shower amounting to one millimetre and some light but steadier rain on Thursday and Friday.
“We could get between five and seven millimetres over those two days and any rain that comes after racing on Friday is not going to help us obviously.

“It might just be a watching brief on the New course. We stopped watering on Thursday. We haven’t completely ruled out putting a little extra irrigation on the New course yet. We haven’t done that today. We will have a look at the forecast tomorrow.

“The options are we go tomorrow, we leave it and then do it overnight but that’s our least favoured option.

“But it just may be the way course conditions are and the forecast is that we end up having to do that.”

Meanwhile, Go Native heads a field of 12 runners for tomorrow’s big race, the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle.

Noel Meade’s seven-year-old is in line for a £1m bonus from betting firm if he adds this to the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

Nicky Henderson-trained Punjabi is going for a second successive victory but stablemate Binocular and leading fancy Solwhit must also be watched having both overcome setbacks to book their Cheltenham rides.