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Will Racing at Cheltenham Festival Go Ahead?

Kevin Walsh for Bookies.com

Kevin Walsh  | 4 mins

Will Racing at Cheltenham Festival Go Ahead?

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It’s the question that sends shivers down the spine of everyone involved in the racing world, and one that is becoming a little too common in recent years. Foot and mouth disease has been the only thing that has stopped the Cheltenham Festival from going ahead in the past, but how many times have we been worried by the threat of potential weather extremes?

The Cheltenham Festival is awaited with bated breath each year by racing fans, whether they are planning to make the trip to the Cotswolds, or simply looking forward to enjoying the action from the comfort of their own home on their horse racing betting apps.

Cheltenham racecourse can be a cold place at times, basked in the sunshine on other occasions, and it can also be hit with wind and rain storms like no other. Frost is another big problem that can sometimes affect the running of National Hunt racing’s showpiece. 

Sometimes, it can be the combination of the elements and human error that can cause issues at the Festival. In 2022, the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase was culled of its favourite when Bravemansgame was taken out of the action, while the favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Shishkin was pulled up after heavy rain throughout the day had counteracted the watering of the course in the morning. While there was no danger the action would be called off, it did cause havoc for people placing wagers at horse racing betting sites, and we’ll be hoping for nothing of the same this year.

Thankfully for the racing world this is an isolated incident, and the ground staff at Prestbury Park are among the best in the world. Typically, whether there is water needed for ground that is too quick, or covers needed to protect from rain, frost and even snow, the hard-working folk at Cheltenham are always ready to react quickly to ensure the biggest races go on, such as the showpiece Cheltenham Gold Cup.

It has been 22 years since the Cheltenham Festival was last cancelled. Foot and mouth disease rocked both Britain and Ireland in 2001, and after cases were confirmed in the vicinity of Cheltenham, racing was called off.

The last time that the weather had a major effect on the festival was back in 2008 when huge storms resulted in Day 2 of the meeting being cancelled due to safety concerns. Thankfully, all of the races up for decision were split between the final two days, meaning those in attendance got to enjoy even more action than they were expecting. This would likely be what happens if the same were to occur, meaning longer days to be wagering on your betting apps.

In 2020, the festival was again thrown into doubt, this time due to the coronavirus pandemic that had caused havoc elsewhere in the sporting world. Cheltenham somehow managed to get the go-ahead just in time before lockdown put a complete hold on all sporting contests across the world.

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Is Cheltenham 2023 in Doubt?

So far, the weather across Britain has proven to be reasonably settled in 2023, although there have been some cold snaps that have resulted in racing being cancelled at various tracks across the country owing to heavy snow.

Rain and wind have so far stayed away, but unfortunately, another cold snap could be about to hit. Forecasters are still uncertain of the exact details, but there is a worry that snow and ice could hit Cheltenham just as preparations get underway for the action to begin on March 14th.

Course clerk Jon Pullin said earlier this week that while there is a risk of some snow and heavy rain this week, the current forecast suggests the weather could be slightly warmer next week.

It will be a quick change around for ground staff at Cheltenham who have been watering the track occasionally to combat the unseasonably warm weather drying out the ground. They could now have to once again reach for the covers before the curtain is raised on the 2023 festival with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Let’s hope that the weather gods are looking forward to seeing the likes of Constitution Hill and Galopin Des Champs in action just as much as the rest of us!

About the Author

Kevin Walsh for Bookies.com
Kevin Walsh
A lifelong Newcastle United supporter, Kevin has seen every side of the betting world. From working in betting shops, to riding horses out and everything in between, he now focuses on writing about his passion and has worked with RacingFM and the Independent News Group. You'll find his thoughts and opinions on horse racing, darts, football and more here at Bookmakers.com.