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Wednesday 13 March 2019

Cheltenham Festival: Storm Gareth set to cause havoc

It was the perfect start to Cheltenham Festival for Klassical Dream, who took the honours in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park in the opening race. The 6/1 shot was saddled by Ruby Walsh, who collected his 59th win at Cheltenham, but the conditions of the track have been the main talking point on day one. 

The United Kingdom has taken something of a battering over the last 24 hours, as Storm Gareth brought winds of up to 60mph on Tuesday, with the north expected to entertain gales of up to 80mph. The storm is set to stay until at least Thursday, so what can jockeys and race horses expect from the wet weather? 

Soft conditions

If we take the first two races for example, Klassical Dream won by four-and-a-half lengths from Thomas Darby, a 28/1 shot with Itchy Feet completing the top three (25/1). Granted, the finishing order was surprising but the soft conditions will continue to have a huge bearing as the week goes on. It’s not to say the inclement weather has come as a bolt out of the blue, but the moisture in the ground will make it necessary for trainers and jockeys to rethink their battle strategies. 

Naturally, there are pros and cons to the wet and blustery conditions and the first couple of results have justified that. So how exactly do the soft conditions affect the runners? The heavier horses will tend to have a harder time due to them treading some four or five inches into the ground, disrupting their run while the lighter horses can navigate somewhat easier.

Reschedule for Saturday? According to the Racing Post, there’s a very strong possibility the second day of the racing could be moved to the Saturday. A single inspection has been set for the Wednesday morning but assuming the racing is okay to continue, it’s unlikely the conditions will have changed too much. This will mean a lot more surprise results throughout the four-day event but how does the forecast look for Cheltenham?

It’s not expected to change too much from the opening day with more rain expected, but the wind itself can play a huge role in determining the outcome of the vast majority of the remaining races. There are sunny spells forecast in intervals throughout the rest of the week, and a lot of punters may well be saving their trump-bets for the Gold Cup on Friday. 

The 2019 line-up for the big one really does contain the industry’s finest, with the likes of Presenting Percy, Native River and Clan Des Obeaux to name but a few in the mix. It promises to be one of the most exciting Gold Cups in years, and punters will need to study more in-depth than normal, owing to the wet and soggy conditions. You can find all of the latest prices here: 

Of course, the weather could take a turn for the better but as things stand, it appears that Storm Gareth will have a huge role to play in the outcome of the results.