“Ariel View of Cheltenham Racecourse” by Nilfanion (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Cheltenham Festival takes place in March and comes after an unusually mild February, which could cause the ground staff at the course additional work. The warm weather has caused racecourses around the country a headache, with some of them running on ground that has been described as good, good to firm in places, which is unheard of for this time of year.
We will not get that at the Festival, but the ground staff are going to have to work far harder than normal to get their desired good to soft ground. The bookmakers are confident they will get the job done, with Oddschecker reporting good to soft ground is favourite on the opening day of the festival. That would normally come naturally for the course at this time of year, but instead, they are going to have to put quite a lot of water down to get there, and with the warm weather expected to stick around, they will have to water on a regular basis.
“The Cheltenham Cross Country Course” by Carine06 (CC BY-SA 2.0)
One thing we can count out this year is a repeat of the ground from last year’s festival, which started out on the Tuesday as heavy. We had a lot of bad weather in February last year, including snow, and that had a real impact on the ground last year, but in the opposite way to what we are seeing this year. Both have provided very different challenges for the ground staff at Cheltenham, but there is no doubt that this season will give them a lot more work to do.
With good weather at the moment and watering in the future to consider, punters will be keeping a keen eye on the reports from Cheltenham regarding the ground. As the week progresses and racing takes place on it, we can expect it to ease even further, even if we don’t have any rain and that will be good news for Native River, who heads to Friday’s Gold Cup as the reigning champions. He won the 2018 Gold Cup on bad ground, grinding it out while others struggled to go as well as him on it and his chances increase considerably if the ground turns as bad this season. Many other favourites are ground dependant this season, and the owners and trainers of those runners will be keen to see water put down as soon as possible on the track.