'Good to Soft' start for Festival

  • Last Updated: March 11 2014, 10:43 GMT

The Cheltenham Festival action is set to begin on predominantly good to soft going, according to clerk of the course Simon Claisse.

Simon Claisse: Reckons the Festival will start on Good to Soft going
Simon Claisse: Reckons the Festival will start on Good to Soft going

With the track having gone more than a week without receiving any rainfall, the going is continuing to dry out, but Claisse says he is pleased with the condition of the turf.

"Although it's now been dry for eight or nine days, we'd just had so much rain before then it's held on to the moisture," he said.

"It's lovely ground, I've described it as good to soft, good in places on both hurdle and chase courses and I'd anticipate that we're going to be starting that way.

"I had thought that if the temperatures we'd had yesterday afternoon, up to 18C, had persisted, we might be starting on good, but I'd say it will be mainly good to soft.

"With the sun coming out this afternoon, the ground down the hill on the Old Course is now good.

"The Cross-Country Course, which we are going to use on Wednesday this year, is a little bit easier (Good to Soft, Soft in places). There is some soft ground around the top turn where they start."

Claisse said he was still keeping his options open over the prospect of watering the New Course for racing on Thursday and Friday.

"I know it might sound perverse to some, but this place can dry out very quickly. We'll take it day by day. There's just a possibility that it might dry out if the breeze gets up and the weather remains dry."

Willie Mullins declared himself delighted with the conditions, saying at Cheltenham on Monday morning, said: "We are very happy with the ground and the horses travelled well so we are keeping our fingers crossed and hope that it all goes well from here.

"I never dreamt that I would be favourite (4/9f) to take the leading trainers award (sponsored by The Irish Independent); I just hope that a few of the good [ones] go in. We don't expect, but hope to come over here and have a winner. People obviously think we are going to have a few - I hope they are right.

"All is well with Hurricane Fly and we are optimistic, he seems in good form, that's all I can say."

Henry de Bromhead was also pleased with connections and was looking forward to getting up and running.

"It is going to be nice ground hopefully, as long as it is nice jumping ground that is fair on everyone. Once you hit the frame and you're running well at Cheltenham, you're happy," he commented.

The Irish handler had hoped to have seven runners but Sizing Machine failed to make the cut in the final race on Tuesday.

"There are possibly five to run on Wednesday, two in the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase, both with great chances, Sizing Europe (Andrew Lynch) and Special Tiara (Davy Russell)," he said.

"Shanahan's Turn is in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, and he'd have an outside chance. Sadler's Risk is in the Coral Cup - he's in great form and I am hoping for a great run from him. We have Sizing Australia in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Steeple Chase, while on Thursday, we have the one runner, Sizing Gold, in the JLT Novices' Chase.

"I think that they all have chances but it depends on luck and everything else going right. Sizing Europe is in great form and we live in hope, he is 12 now and it is his sixth year in a row back at The Festival and his record is second to none so we will see. Special Tiara is a lovely young horse coming through."

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