GBI RACING

Claisse reports ‘all systems go’ despite windy forecast for Festival

Strong winds are forecast to hit Cheltenham on Wednesday

Cheltenham is braced but far from alarmed as yet at the prospect of gales hitting the course mid-Festival this week.

Winds reaching a peak of over 40mph are forecast for Wednesday – an uncomfortable late reminder of similar conditions which struck on the same day 11 years ago and caused the cancellation of racing.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase and other high-profile races were instead run later in the week, added to the Thursday and Friday cards.

Clerk of the course Simon Claisse, in position then and now, is reassured at this stage that the expected wind direction and geography of the course mean history should not repeat itself.

In 2008, gusts began to blow in from the east – but this time they are not likely to do so.

“I am one of the few (employees) who was here in 2008 as well,” said Claisse, who is also heartened that so far wind speeds on site have fallen short of those predicted.

He added: “Over the last three or four days we have been forecast strong winds.

“But most of the site is protected when the wind comes in as it’s forecast from the west or south-west – so it’s all systems go, because we are not exposed to the same vulnerability as in 2008.

“We were forecast up to 42mph today, and we only just got to 30.”

A band of heavy rain is still scheduled to cross the course early on Tuesday, and Claisse anticipates resulting soft ground for the start of the four-day meeting will remain that way throughout.

The going is currently described as good to soft, soft in places.

Claisse said: “The indications are still strong of up to 11 or 12 millimetres – half-an-inch – some time through the early hours of Tuesday, clearing by mid-day.

“That would take us towards soft ground.

“There are showers Wednesday and Thursday, so I wouldn’t expect (ground) conditions to change much through the rest of the week.”

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