Rain and frost could make for an unpredictable week of action at the Cheltenham Festival.
There will be 28 races across four days at the Cheltenham Racecourse, with the prestigious Gold Cup taking place on Friday.
By that point, the track conditions could well have their say in the feature race, where Galopin Des Champs is the hot favourite one year on from Rachael Blackmore’s historic victory with A Plus Tard.
The going at Cheltenham is currently soft, good to soft in places, with rain on the way – plus freezing temperatures before Day 2 of the Festival.
“If we get the majority of everything that’s in the forecast, I think we’ll probably have soft ground every day,” said clerk of the course Jon Pullin, per Racing Post.
“We’re looking at a frost overnight on Tuesday into Wednesday and potentially temperatures of -2°C or -3°C. That is far from ideal, not least because we will have raced on the Old course on Tuesday and opened up the ground.
“That makes it a little more susceptible, but at this stage, I don’t think we’ll need to call an inspection. We’ll monitor the forecasts and then make a plan for what we do or don’t do on Tuesday night from a covers point of view.”
Cheltenham Festival weather forecast
The current Met Office outlook for each day of the Festival…
Day 1 – Champion Day – 14 March
Sunny intervals changing to cloudy in the afternoon. After plenty of rain and high winds on Monday, the chance of precipitation on Tuesday is 10 per cent or less from 6am to 6pm. Temperatures could reach 8°C.
Day 2 – Festival Wednesday – 15 March
Cloudy changing to light rain in the afternoon. There is a chance of frost overnight before Day 2, with the chance of precipitation 20 per cent at midday and 50 per cent by 3pm. Temperatures could reach 7°C.
Day 3 – St Patrick’s Thursday – 16 March
Overcast changing to light rain by late morning. A 50 per cent chance of precipitation from 9am until the evening. Temperatures could reach 12°C.
Day 4 – Gold Cup Day – 17 March
Overcast changing to light showers by lunchtime. A 40 per cent chance of precipitation from midday until the late evening. Temperatures could reach 13°C.
Gold Cup predictions if race becomes ‘mud bath’
ITV commentator Richard Hoiles discussed Galopin Des Champs’ Gold Cup prospects with i, and names two horses that could upset the favourite if the conditions take a turn.
“[The Gold Cup] is one of those races where Galopin Des Champs is a little bit like the up-and-coming horse, but he has a lot more to prove yet,” Hoiles says.
“The price is short given that those questions remain. If you want to tip against a horse, you really want to try and look at what conditions he would least be suited by and work out which others in the field would therefore be suited by those conditions.
“If you want to get the favourite beat, often there’s a thinking that he might not stay, which is possible. If he’s not going to stay, it would be because it’s turned into an absolute mud bath come Friday that would make him not stay.
“If that’s the case, there’s a horse called Stattler who won the National Hunt Chase last year at the Festival, so he’s been to the Festival and won. Yes it was a lower grade, slower race, but if it turns really attritional, then it would suit him.
“There’s another horse in the same race at a big, big price called Royal Pagaille, trained by Venetia Williams, who also is a little bit underestimated under those conditions. So, those two are the ones that I think would be my way of getting the favourite beat.
“I would reserve how much I staked on those horses until I got an accurate weather forecast midway through the week, and the muddier it got, the more interested I’d be.”